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Project on Government Oversight

The F-22 Program: Fact Versus Fiction

Related Content: F/A-22 Fighter Aircraft
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August 10, 2000


The Dream
The Realization
Unrealized Dreams
High Cost, Low Numbers
Supersonic Cruise - "Supercruise"
Ultra-High Performance
Superior Avionics
Relevance of Air Superiority


To provide the USAF Air Superiority for the period following 2005

To Conduct—Offensive Counter Air Operation deep in Russia—Its Primary Mission (500 Nautical Mile (NM) Combat Mission—100 NM cruise to the point of penetration — 400 NM supersonic ingress and egress plus combat and fuel reserves)

To provide a 750-800 Aircraft Fleet to replace the aging F–15 Fleet

To be designed to a Unit Flyaway Cost Limit in 1982 dollars—$35 Million1

To control cost by conforming to a Weight Limit—50,000 lbs

(Cost and Weight comparable to the extant F–15—clearly the imagined F-22 would have been a bargain)

Dominant Characteristics

High Stealth

Effective Supersonic Cruise

Ultra-High Performance and Maneuverability

Superior Avionics for Battle Awareness and Effectiveness

Additional Aims

To Rejuvenate the Fleet (Reduce the average age)

Design for Low Maintenance (3 man-hours per sortie)

Form a High-Low Mix with the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) fleet



Unrealized Dreams

The dreams for Stealth, Supercruise, Ultra-High Climb, Acceleration, and Maneuvering Performance have not been realized. The Outstanding Avionics will not be properly tested before purchase and possibly not even before combat.

High Cost, Low Numbers

The number of F–22s purchased will not provide a critical mass of fighters.
The "Dream" of 800 fighters for $70 Billion fell to 648 for $64.2B (after a 1992 Selected Acquisition Report), to 442 for $64.2B (after the Bottom-Up Review of defense strategy), and to 339 for $64.2B (after a Quadrennial Defense Review).2 Study groups and the Congressional Budget Office seeking responsible funding are considering options of 175 and even 100 F–22s. This is a total program cost of more than $200M per aircraft—one-third the cost of the B–1! This cost (predicted in 1976) is worse than obscene. 3

Despite high funding levels—the future size of the Air Combat Command will soon be greatly reduced.

The low number of F–22s will not rejuvenate an aging F–15, F–16 fleet. (Algebraic averaging)

A mix of F–22s and JSFs cannot be a High-Low Mix. It will be An Ultra-High—High Mix. There is no low element. The complementary F–15 and F–16 do both the air superiority and air-to-surface missions. The F-22 mainly does air superiority missions. Both have deserted our US Army.

The few F–22s possessing quasi-F-15 performance will degrade the air superiority capability of the Air Combat Command, composed of 1600 fighters.

Our decision-makers have (again) opted for unilateral disarmament in the face of their perceived threats. 4



The F–22 is not a Stealthy Aircraft.
Stealth means the proper suppression of all its important "signatures"—Visual Signature, Radar Signature, Infrared Signature, Electromagnetic Emissions, and Sound.

Visually—The F–22, one of the world's largest, most identifiable fighters, cannot hide in daylight. Its role is in daylight. Stealth operations are night operations. Unfortunately stealth against radar invariably increases the size of a fighter making it more visible.

The radar signature is utterly inadequately reported.
Only a single data number is provided to congressional committees and the GAO—the average radar signature in the level forward direction within 20 degrees of the nose, presumably to enemy fighter radars. In the B-1B reporting fiasco, the 100/1 signature advantage over the B-52 became a real 1.8/1. One cannot design an aircraft to simultaneously hide from low and medium frequency ground radars and from high frequency airborne fighter radars. Properly, all the data should be portrayed and reported—for all azimuths, for all "latitudes," and for all radar frequencies. Single data points constitute lying by omission and gross incompleteness.

The temperature increases of supersonic cruising flights make the F-22s beacons in the sky to infrared sensors.

Fighters, with radar to search for and find the enemy autonomously, at long ranges, cannot hide their high powered electric emissions to modern, sophisticated, Russian equipment.
The Russians excel at this art and export their equipment to many nations. Further, F-22 detection of enemies by radar is an inverse fourth power phenomenon, while detection of the F-22's radar is an inverse square phenomenon, giving the advantage to the enemy. In other words, the F-22's radar will be detected by an enemy plane before the F-22 detects the enemy.

The Sound Signature - Modernity and the sound of a booming supersonic F-22 allow high-speed computers to identify it and (given an intergrated net of sensors) provide sufficiently accurate position location and prediction.

It appears that designing air superiority aircraft primarily for radar stealth is an error.

Supersonic Cruise - "Supercruise"

The F–22 has not yet demonstrated effective supersonic cruise

The USAF has never appreciated that speed without persistence is meaningless.
Proof—Six USAF aircraft capable of Mach 2.2 never exceeded 1.4 Mach in combat over North Vietnam in 10 years of war, in hundreds of thousands of sorties. The F–15 has never demonstrated its performance guarantee of Mach 2.5 flight in a combat configuration on a realistic combat mission profile.

The USAF has the wrong definition of supercruise —(supersonic flight in turbojet thrust, i.e. without using an afterburner).

Cruise means covering distance efficiently. Fighters with wings properly sized for subsonic maneuver achieve efficient supersonic flight at altitudes of 60,000 feet requiring partial afterburning thrust. This may be unknown to the testers since the test program limits testing to below 50,000. The proper cruise condition may remain unknown. All supercruisers cruise at very high altitudes using some afterburning (i.e. ramjet) thrust—MiG–31, SR-71, as did the many designs that I have studied, generated, or supervised.
(Detailed aerodynamic-thermodynamic analysis is available upon request.)

The GAO report that the F–22 has demonstrated supercruise is specious and misleading.
The reports have merely stated that the F–22 has demonstrated 1.6 Mach flight speeds in pure turbojet (dry) thrust. No report of distance traveled or persistence at those speeds was made. Supersonic speeds in dry thrust bode well, but this capability is not sufficient to achieve supercruise. Proper data are global radius of action and global persistence plots as functions of speed and altitude, for rational missions. These data must be then compared to those of the F–15 and the ancient F–104-19 to establish progress. For example—the 40 year old F-104A-19 has twice the supersonic radius of the 20 year old F-15C at 1.7 Mach, and out-accelerates it at Mach 2.2. Compare! In comparison lies the proof of progress.

The Fuel Fraction of the F–22 is insufficient for pragmatic supersonic cruise missions.
Fuel Fraction, the weight of the fuel divided by the weight of the aircraft at take-off, impacts cruise-range, be it super- or subsonic. At today's state of the art, fuel fractions of 29 percent and below yield subcruisers; 33 percent provides a quasi–supercruiser; and 35 percent and above provides useful missions. The F–22's fuel fraction is 29 percent, equal to those of the subcruising F–4s, F–15s and the Russian MiG-29 Flanker. The Russian medium range supersonic interceptor, the MiG-31 Foxhound, has a fuel fraction of over 45 percent. Supersonic cruise fighters require higher fuel fractions since they must have excessive wing for supersonic cruise. Breguet's range equation establishes the dependence of aircraft radius on speed, lift–to-drag ratio, specific fuel consumption and the part of the total fuel fraction available for cruise.

The "dream" design mission was continually redefined and degraded to— a)conform to physical reality, and — b)to reduce the uncontrolled cost and weight. (Flexible (rubber) Requirements.)

Ultra-High Performance

The F–22 does not provide a Great Leap Forward in performance relative to the F–15C or MiG-29. At 65,000 lbs, with 18,500–18,750 lbs of fuel, with two nominal 35,000 lb thrust engines—it has the thrust to weight ratio of the F–15C, the fuel fraction of the F–15C, and a wing loading that is only slightly inferior to that of the F–15C, so it will accelerate, climb, and maneuver much like the F–15C for reasons of basic physics.

There are two differences from the F–15—thrust vectoring and supersonic speeds in dry thrust. Thrust vectoring allows the F-22 to maneuver controllably at sub-stall speeds, which other aircraft cannot. This, in the helicopter speed domain, is in seeming contradiction to an aircraft designed for supersonic engagement with slashing attacks using its beyond visual range missiles.

The flight test program to validate maneuverability is utterly inadequate. Using a single number—the maximum steady-state G at 30,000 ft at 0.9 Mach—on an aircraft that operates from 40 knots to beyond Mach 2, from sea level to above 60,000 ft is a throwback to the Dark Ages of aircraft evaluation. Proper presentations are global, all-altitude all-speed plots at the two major power settings. They must be compared to friendly and enemy aircraft. Comparison reveals progress, the whole truth, and even allows the formulation of battle tactics.

Superior Avionics

The expectations for the avionics are to provide great battle awareness and effective weapons management. The F-22 is to autonomously identify (ID) the enemy from friend, from neutral, regardless of the country that produced the aircraft.

But, testing will not be fully completed before going into production! The pressure is on to meet production schedules and to do incomplete testing to save time and money. Incomplete testing is fatal and extremely wasteful. B–1 avionics, similarly treated, still do not function in the aircraft after two decades, despite large transfusions of funds.

Such refined identification capability has never been achieved though frequently promised. Given failure and dependence on visual identification, the F-22 will be at the level of the F–15 and F–16. The requirement for visual ID made the AIM-7D/E, the Talos, the complex long-range Phoenix missile and the Aegis missile cruiser relatively worthless. The avionics are to be treated as "guilty" until tested and proven to be innocent.

The software is more extensive and complex than that of the Aegis missile cruiser. Dependence on the integrated, complex system belies the dream of a low maintenance requirement.

Most likely result—The F-22 will be declared combat ready much before it is.

Relevance of Air Superiority

The relevance of air superiority in the modern world is vastly overstated. The USAF has faced no air superiority force since the Korean War. Nor have our ground troops faced an enemy air-to-surface threat.

US air superiority fighters are aimed at enemy fighters—the irrelevant half of the problem.
Our foreseeable enemies achieve air superiority with competent, relatively affordable, highly mobile Russian vehicles carrying surface-to-air missiles (IR, radar, and optically guided), and two 30mm cannon (the Tangkuska). These are armed with SA-6, SA-8 and SA-10 missiles. The F–22 only counters non-existent enemy fighters. Hence air-to-surface F–16s, A-10s, and F-15Es become the de facto air superiority aircraft. Attempts to equip the F-22 to suppress enemy defenses are easily defeated by enemy tactics used in Vietnam and Serbia.

The USAF is already over-equipped to handle any imaginable air superiority problem.
Today, Air Combat Command is capable of handling any coalition of air superiority threats. Air Combat Command has the most important factor— competent pilots, the second most important factor—large numbers (1,600-2,400 fighters), and the least important advantage—the best aircraft. In Germany during World War II, US numbers, not quality, reigned supreme.5 The USAF has always had and has always depended upon superior numbers to win. Numbers guarantee victory. Numbers develop intensity and allow multiple attacks.

The US has no realistic future air superiority problem facing it.
A sane US will not war with India, China, or Russia. Nor will we war with France, England, Japan, and Germany. None of these nations will attack the US. Other countries are not threats. Nor will we war with our friends to whom we sold US aircraft.6 The US must minimize its enemies, not create them artificially to sustain the arms industry. Even Canada has been listed as a possible threat! Yet, the US continues to seek foreign sales before our modern aircraft see service in the USAF and US Navy. (Examples—the US Navy's F–14, F–18E, and the F–22.)

The conjured need to cope with our weapons
places our country in a self-perpetuating arms race with itself!


Money expended on the program will weaken Air Combat Command and the USAF in two ways—

By getting involved with an aircraft that has no function, and no relevance to modern wars.

By denying themselves funds they really need—for training and for new aircraft to support a US Army, completely stripped of supporting airpower.

Approximately 90 percent of the program funding can still be saved, and reprogrammed to relevant Air Force programs.


1. The equivalent in today's dollars would be $59 Million. An honest USAF Colonel stated in front of the author in 1986— "Everyone knew it wasn't a $35M aircraft." Yet—the Commander of Air Force Systems Command believed it could be done. (F-22 Study By ANSER, Inc., March 24, 1988.) The Congress and the Commander of Tactical Air Command (TAC) believed and expected what they were promised. All six competing contractors dutifully turned in proposals for the Advanced Tactical Fighter that allegedly weighed less than 50,000 lbs and allegedly cost less than $35M. The Fiction was maintained throughout the prototype program.

2. The truth was slowly being admitted.

3. The total program cost amortizes the research and development cost into the aircraft. It is always higher than the optimistic unit fly-away cost, and it reflects the cost to the public.

4. The attempt to purchase 135 B-2s for $40B resulted in 20 B-2s for $40B.

5. After Germany opted for high technology in tanks and aircraft in lieu of numbers, they handily lost the war.

6. If US aircraft pose a threat, some decision-makers should be processed for incompetence or subversive intent. 

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