F-22 Raptor
December 19, 2002 5:19 PM   Subscribe

The F-22 Raptor is the next generation fighter for the United States. At nearly 97 million each, it will be deployed in 2004.This site gives a remarkably detailed report regarding its design and function. Including such gems as "first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability" and " Humans are good differentiators, but they are poor integrators."
posted by JohnR (53 comments total)
error....to be deployed in 2002
posted by JohnR at 5:33 PM on December 19, 2002

97 Million EACH?????????????????

Doesn't that seem incredibly expensive per plane? Can anyone explain how that makes sense?
posted by madmanz123 at 6:02 PM on December 19, 2002

When I save up 97 million I'm definitely buying one.
posted by Xkot at 6:05 PM on December 19, 2002

It flies at supersonic speeds. It can engage air and ground targets. It has a glass cockpit, meaning there are no dials or guages, just silicon. It can rain fire from the sky.

Fighter jets are expensive for a reason. As for purchasing one, all I have to say is this: why buy one when you can have two for twice the price?
posted by mmcg at 6:12 PM on December 19, 2002

So how much is that in Pepsi Points?
posted by Stan Chin at 6:12 PM on December 19, 2002

well, it's very pretty...

Does it have anything to stop US pilot's killing British soliders? (Sorry couldn't resist)
posted by keno at 6:16 PM on December 19, 2002

$97 Million won't get you even one wing of an F-22. Current price is up to $205 million each, and it's going higher and higher and higher ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 6:18 PM on December 19, 2002

"Humans are good differentiators, but they are poor integrators."

Bang-on about the integration, but anyone who's seen my highschool calculus scores would argue about my ability to differentiate.

Thank you, I'll be here all week! Don't forget to tip your waitress.
posted by krunk at 6:24 PM on December 19, 2002

I believe some of the American bombers go for over a billion a pop because of the stealth and whatnot. They cost that much because they're worth more than that in battle - Hercules has nothing on the current world's most powerful weapons.

In any case, the bigger point of buying these expensive toys is so that we *don't* have to use them. See "nuclear parity" and "Rice Doctrine."
posted by Kevs at 6:24 PM on December 19, 2002

In the land of $10,000.00 hammers, $205,000,000.00 airplanes ain't no big deal. Wait 'til we get started on the $1,000,000,000,000.00 war and rehabilitation of Iraq, then you'll see some real money get spent.

By the way, even if we do steal all their oil, it still won't pay for the cost of the war.
posted by mygoditsbob at 6:42 PM on December 19, 2002

But there's a problem - it doesn't work (first flight in 1990, still not ready for combat today and even it's supporters admit that it won't be ready in 2005, maybe not until 2008 or later), and even if it did, it turns out it wouldn't be what we need.
posted by Jos Bleau at 6:52 PM on December 19, 2002

These facts impressed me.. its "brain" has " equivalent computing throughput of two Cray supercomputers","approximately 1.7 million lines of code"and"The CIP modules have the ability to emulate any of the electronic functions through automatic reprogramming. For example, if the CIP module that is acting as radio dies, one of the other modules will automatically reload the radio program and take over the radio function."
posted by JohnR at 6:52 PM on December 19, 2002

I'm doing research on B2 bombers for a game we're developing and I just learned that if you crash a B2, you nearly sink an aircraft carrier in terms of cost!
posted by Zombie at 6:56 PM on December 19, 2002

I have to say — as a software engineer — that "1.7 million lines of code" plus "lethal military hardware" equals "very, very scary prospect". (Yes, I know that the Raptor is not unique in this regard. Yes, I know it was not a computer malfunction that dropped bombs on friendly units. "I'm just saying, is all.")
posted by dsandl at 7:05 PM on December 19, 2002

Here's an idea. Why don't we just take the hundreds of millions we spend on these things and buy some dictators off. ;)
posted by madmanz123 at 7:07 PM on December 19, 2002

Madman, it's a funny punchline, but are you familiar with the concept of Danegeld? It's why you can't buy off dictators.
posted by alumshubby at 7:42 PM on December 19, 2002

Actually, as we proved in Afghanistan, you can buy off dictators (or chieftains, at least) for millions of dollars. The F-22 is designed to buy off the Senators and Congressmen who have military contractors in their districts. That takes a lot more money - over $200 billions and counting for this program .....
posted by Jos Bleau at 7:49 PM on December 19, 2002

Yes, but you can spend a little (very wee, even) bit of money to promote concepts of tolerance and recourse to international law around the world. Why not. How much strategic influence would just one F-22 Raptor buy?
posted by troutfishing at 7:52 PM on December 19, 2002

None, although I'll concede it might rent some.
posted by alumshubby at 8:01 PM on December 19, 2002

JosBleau: a big part of the increase in the unit costs is related to loss of volume -- they've slowed the program down and spread the cost over more years, but at the price of increasing the unit cost.

JohnR: that *would* be cool, but if it's as fast as two Crays, that means that it's probably about the equivalent of a competent to fast desktop.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:13 PM on December 19, 2002

When I saw 97 million a pop I thought that was pretty cheap. The "outdated", as some would say, B-1 Bomber cost about 200 million a piece. I was working on a B-1 one summer and asked how much stuff cost. Screws cost about 50 bucks a piece, the joystick cost about 8,000 bucks, the pitot probes, there are 6, cost about 3,000 to 6,000 a piece and the 6 pressure transducers connected to the pitot probes cost about 32,000 a piece. But, I should point out that the B-1 is suppose to be EMP proof and have radar absorptive paint. Oh, and the B-2 cost around 1 billion each I think. I could see the F-22 costing around 200 million a piece. The point is that these planes are expensive but there is a lot of high tech stuff in each of them. As my friend would say, "Top of the line, baby!"
posted by Ron at 9:58 PM on December 19, 2002

Yeah - shame about the starving hordes.....
posted by troutfishing at 10:01 PM on December 19, 2002

ROU_Xenophobe ...100 million instructions per second for your desktop vs 10.5 billion instructions per second for the F-22. Of course there is the The Earth Simulator which operates at 40 trillion floating-point operations per second.
posted by JohnR at 10:52 PM on December 19, 2002

I have to say, fighter jets is where the liberal viewpoints and tech boy lust part. Way expensive, but way cool. James Bond ain't got nothin' on this baby. Mach 1.8 and stealthy. Yeah, I know we will likely end up using this on some poor sap like Saddam, where it will be like Mike Tyson boxing 5 year old girls. But, hey if any one really tough ever takes us on, we will have one fast, stealthy, sexy plane to fight back.
posted by caddis at 11:00 PM on December 19, 2002

And the ability to cruise at supersonic speeds without afterburners is just down right sexy.
posted by Ron at 11:13 PM on December 19, 2002

JohnR: a bog-standard Athlon gets a billion flops in the specs I can google up quickly. I hadn't seen the 10.5 Gflops for the F-22; I saw the "two Cray supercomputers" and remembered that a Cray got about 100Mflops... but that was the Cray-1.

Still a bit crazy that this pokey desktop is better than the Crays I remember amazing me in _The Last Starfighter_, though.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:18 AM on December 20, 2002

That site was cool, but the Eurofighter's has a flash game!
posted by black8 at 3:26 AM on December 20, 2002

alumshubby - Thanks for the danegeld link, that was excellent.
posted by vito90 at 6:21 AM on December 20, 2002

Ron - another thought: following the trend, of US military planes costing more and more, the logical extension is that -in 2040 or so- one plane will consume the entire DOD budget. That will be OK, though, because at that point it will no longer be a plane but will have evolved into a "Death Star" which is impregnable and orbits the Earth as a second moon, vaporizing rebels and malcontents landside with powerfull plasma beam weapons.

By the way, the name "F-22 Raptor" reminded me of the picture on one common "Latin roast" espresso coffee sold in the US (in vacuum packs) - It shows a Bald Eagle swooping down to seize cans of coffee it's outstretched talons. Given the history of incessant US interventions in Latin America in the 20th century, I take the picture to be a wry latin commentary.

Raptor indeed!
posted by troutfishing at 6:48 AM on December 20, 2002

Informative link.
Supercruise is neat, but (the) Concorde has been doing it for 25+ years with 100 passengers and inflight meals. The military contractors really over-hyped the F-22 supercruise feature in terms of it being a new development, useful though it is for operations.
Small regional jets that seat 50-70 people cost in the area of $15-25 million, so $100 million for a state of the art, radar-deflecting, supersonic death machine doesn't sound outrageous. On the other hannd, repairing the plane and all its expensive, perfectly-assembled-to-avoid-generating-a-radar-signature pieces probably costs a fortune.
posted by cardboard at 7:06 AM on December 20, 2002

Ron - another thought: following the trend, of US military planes costing more and more, the logical extension is that -in 2040 or so- one plane will consume the entire DOD budget. That will be OK, though, because at that point it will no longer be a plane but will have evolved into a "Death Star" which is impregnable and orbits the Earth as a second moon, vaporizing rebels and malcontents landside with powerfull plasma beam weapons.

HAHHAHAA Good one. Made me laugh outloud. Thank you.

Now as for the topic; I grew up with this damn thing in the 80's. My father is an engineer with Northrup Grumman. This program has been running for eons. I was in the USAF when it was finally decided to get the 22 instead of the YF-23. 1993 as I recall, at survival school.
Now they are talking about it entering service, and olny after 2 decades too. Wow, that is some timeline. This thing better be in the inventory for about 200 years.

And while I am ranting about waste; could we please not waste tons and tons of money on a missle defense system that cannot hit missles? Please !

The program I am sure has yielded some interesting research, but at some point, it either has to work, or you put a fork in it. This thing didn't work when they ordered it into production over 10 years ago.
Lets not forget other pieces of crap like the V22 Osprey and the Joint fighter being developed for...hmmm... everyone by Boeing. I remember another piece of junk called the F-111, pushed by Robert McNamara. Supposed to work for the Navy and the AF. Hunk of crap for both. Navy version was dropped. Different missions require different aircraft, but here we go again, developing a "one plane for everyone" program again.
Hey, it worked so well last time we tried it.

Truth be told, most military contracts are awarded based purely on the politics of the situation.

Military motto regarding equipment: "built by the lowest bidder"
posted by a3matrix at 7:46 AM on December 20, 2002

troutfishing...let them eat raptor.
posted by thewittyname at 7:49 AM on December 20, 2002

That's too much money to be spending on a killing machine. Why is it so difficult to parcel out a little money for social services, and so easy to spend a fortune on these hot rods?
posted by mert at 8:03 AM on December 20, 2002

a3matrix - Glad about the laugh! here's an honest question: do you know of any studies which compare the effectiveness of military spending on (for example) fighter development by the Israeli military as opposed to the US military? The Israelis, I've heard, spend their R&D dollars very, very efficiently.

Also, my Death Star comment was similar to a piece about 6-8 months ago in Wired magazine called "Peace is War", by Bruce Sterling
posted by troutfishing at 8:15 AM on December 20, 2002

Top of line Boeing 777 costs 203.5 - 231.5 million.
posted by JohnR at 8:37 AM on December 20, 2002

Besides the price questions, there is also a question regarding the ultimate utility of the situation.

The F-22 was designed to be an air superiority fighter that would confront Soviet aircraft in the limited theater of central and western Europe. It does not have a massive range (though range can be extended by tankers.) While it has adapted a ground-attack mission, it was not designed for this. It was designed to fight with other planes. Do we really need something that does this?
posted by pjgulliver at 8:42 AM on December 20, 2002

pjgulliver - if you haven't already read it, this Atlantic Monthly article about the Joint Strike Fighter also briefly discusses the F-22 program's history and why it survives.
posted by pitchblende at 9:13 AM on December 20, 2002

Yeah. I've read it. It was a good article. There's no question there is some limited role for a fighter like the f-22. But in my mind it fits into the same category as the Crusader artillery system. Both are amazing technological products that would undoubtedly be able to defeat any adversary. But they are both extreme overkill and not really suited to modern style warfare and the strategic realities of US combat in the 21st century.
posted by pjgulliver at 9:19 AM on December 20, 2002

"Soviet" fighters exist in a lot more air forces than merely the Russian. For example, I believe Iraq's air order of battle still includes some pretty spiffy MiG-29s.

If you're going to control the airspace over a battlefield, you'd better be sure you're able to kill anything else you might meet in it, regardless of whose pilots fly it.
posted by alumshubby at 10:08 AM on December 20, 2002

What was the last conflict in which the United States did not decisively and immediately gain air-superiority, and then uncontested flight zones? There are only three possible groups that could challange even current US technology, and it would take all out war for these "enemy" airforces to even begin to damage current US fighters. The combined NATO/European airforces, possible the Russian airforce for a short period before it was destroyed, and the Chinese airforce for a short period. Come on, do we really need a $200 million fighter designed for extended air-superiority combat in a conventional WWII style combat zone?
posted by pjgulliver at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2002

pjgulliver, I think the whole point of continually developing these highly advanced aircraft is so we can gain air superiority in less time than it takes for the enemy to scramble to their outdated Piper Cubs. If there ever is a war, hopefully it can be ended much much sooner with this technology.
posted by Ron at 11:42 AM on December 20, 2002

Lesson of history:

In Korean War, US fighters (F-86) were technological equals of Russian designs (Mig 15) & still achieved 12 to 1 kill ratio.

At start of Vietnam War, US uses latest supersonic fighters (F-104's and others) against Korean war era subsonic Vietnamese fighters (mig 17 and 19) - result, 3 to 1 kill ration in favor of Vietnamese!

Why? - us pilots not trained to dogfight, and faster fighter does not mean better fighter - just means faster.

USAF then buys fighter designed NY US Navy (F-4) that can dog-fight, starts 'aggressor squadron' training. Result - kill ratio goes up to 10 to 1 in favor of US.

Analysis shows that even between 2 mach-2 capable aircraft, supersonic speed is used in fewer than 2 percent of engagements - and even less than that in engagements that resulted in a "kill".

In 1967 war same story in middle east - subsonic Israeli fighters beat latest supersonic Russian hardware.

Pilot training counts for much more than aircraft capabilities. ability to maneuver in the 400 to 450 knot range is more important than top speed or 'supercruise' ability.

No enemy real or imagined can put more or better trained pilots in the air than the US can before the year 2020. By then pilots may not be necessary.

So no need for F-22, which is less maneuverable in the actual combat flight envelope of 400 to 450 knots than existing designs, can't support ground troops, and which won't work correctly even in 2008, 20 years after first flight (BTW, F-22 didn't supercuise until 1999, when design had been flying for 10 years - has supercruised less than 100 hours since then).
posted by Jos Bleau at 12:03 PM on December 20, 2002

USAF then buys fighter designed NY US Navy (F-4) that can dog-fight,

I didn't realize Metafilter was transdimensional. See, in my timeline, the F-4 gave birth to the adage that even a brick will fly if the engines are big enough, and is anything but a dogfighter. Didn't even have a gun until late in the war.

And supersonic speed isn't used to engage. It's used to run like hell from a furball you want no part of and save your expensive plane and even-harder-to-replace pilot.

1967 is best explained by noting that it's not hard to best Arab militaries.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:26 PM on December 20, 2002

The F-4. Didn't it have a top speed above mach 2? I agree with Jos in that US pilots are some of the best trained in the world. But I also think the F-22 is a needed aircraft. It is not used just for dogfighting. Like many new aircraft including the JSF, they are designed as multirole platforms. The F-22's low radar signature, jamming abilities, and other neat stuff comes in handy not just in air to air combat but in air to ground attacks as well. It seems the path the Air Force is trying to go is to use one plane to do the role of several planes. The thinking is that in the long run this would be cheaper as you don't need one type of plane for one type of mission but can use one plane for several types of missions.
posted by Ron at 12:34 PM on December 20, 2002

ROU - I didn't say that F-4 was world's best dogfighter, or even a good one - it least it had the capability to ACM as compared to F-104, which had none. Yes, it was designed as a carrier based interceptor, not dogfighter (that was the F-8, which had best Vietnam kill ratio of all, BTW) with no dedicated gun - but podded guns were used for air combat until the were first fitted on the G model. Podded not nearly as good as fited weapon, but you use what you got. Anyway D & F mods at least got kill ratio back into positive for US.

War re-taught the value of ACM to USAF - they went on to buy F-16 & F-15's, best ACM capabilities anywhere at the time.

Bottom line - IFF will won't be trusty enought for routine BVR combat for foreseeable future, so antagonists must get close enough to VID - the means ACM will remain paramount.

Don't think Arab Israeli example is germane? What about first 2 Indo-Pak wars?
posted by Jos Bleau at 12:46 PM on December 20, 2002

The computers are using the Ada language. Does anyone have firsthand experience with this language?
posted by JohnR at 12:46 PM on December 20, 2002

Isn't Jos Bleau's "Lesson In History" also quoted in Top Gun?
posted by smackfu at 1:43 PM on December 20, 2002

Talk to me, Goose.
posted by Ron at 3:31 PM on December 20, 2002

Smackfu, I think so. Somewhere in the movie I think they mention the "Lesson In History" and give that as a reason why Top Gun was created. I think either Viper or Jester said it. Probably Viper cause JESTER'S DEAD!
posted by Ron at 3:34 PM on December 20, 2002

pjgulliver, in the unfortunate event that the USAF ever has to defeat the Pak air force (pls excuse a GeoCities link), we could be in for a very sobering lesson in the capabilities of Third World military organizations. These guys fly F-16s and Mirage IIIs and, after us, the Israelis and the Brits (in that order), they're scary good.
posted by alumshubby at 6:37 PM on December 20, 2002

JohnR - it's a (fairly) modern language designed from the start to produce well-engineered code (i think it requires inline documentation in some form, for example). it has traditional (c++ like) classes, but a better type system than c++ (no void* for example). however, iirc it doesn't have automatic memory management (because, i guess, they weren't happy about gc and real time systems). i've not used it, but i know someone who has, and they like it. it's not super-elegant like some of the funcional languages or lisp/scheme, but it's well designed and, apparently, good for the job.

if you had to choose a language for writing control system software for fighter aircraft, it's probably the best choice (although i think there's a few experimental strict(ish) functional languages with real-time capabilites (ie upper limits on gc timings) kicking around these days, which might be even better if you could find enough programmers to work with them).

[this all from memory from a few years back; i've not been following the programming language scene much recently]
posted by andrew cooke at 6:42 PM on December 20, 2002

So, is there anyone here who never made a model airplane?
posted by y2karl at 7:18 PM on December 20, 2002

That (linked) site is terrifyingly poorly written, if nothing else. Rich in multiple redundancy, presumably to be true to its mil-spec roots.

Whatever happened to the phrase "air supremacy," anyway?
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:25 AM on December 21, 2002

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