Clock is ticking for F-22 upgrades, GAO says

Clock is ticking for F-22 upgrades, GAO says

Many of the Air Force’s F-22 Raptors may not get their long-promised capability upgrades until well into their service lives, Congress’ watchdog warned this week, though there doesn’t appear to be much anyone can do about it.

A Government Accountability Office report cautioned that by the time the F-22s get the fourth and most wham-o-dyne of their modernization upgrades, many of the fighters will have flown around 20 percent of their design lives, limiting the amount of bang the Air Force can get for its buck. There’s even cause for concern that the upgrades could arrive later than that.

By contrast, GAO said, similar upgrades in past — as from the F-15 to the F-15E Strike Eagle, for example — have yielded entirely new airplanes fresh for a whole career. With the F-22 line shut down and the last jet being delivered this week, the Air Force probably won’t be able to get new Strike Raptors, or Super Raptors.

Here’s how the report broke it down:

Nearly all F-22A modernization upgrades will have to be retrofitted onto fielded aircraft while the legacy programs integrated their upgrades into new production aircraft. The Air Force began integrating F-22A Increment 2 onto production aircraft in 2007, and received the first Increment 2 aircraft from the contractor the following year. All of the remaining aircraft were produced and delivered with Increment 2 upgrades incorporated. However, F-22A production was terminated in 2009, before the second modernization increment (Increment 3.1) had finished development, so the remaining modernization increments will have to be retrofitted into the fleet. As a result, the aircraft will have used up some of their service life by the time they are fully upgraded. Based on F-22A flight hour data provided by the program office our analysis indicates that a large number of aircraft are likely to have flown more than 1,500 hours, or nearly 20 percent of their 8,000-hour service lives, before the Increment 3.2B upgrades are fielded.11 In contrast, the legacy programs produced entirely new upgraded aircraft.

The Air Force had to “modernize” the world’s greatest fighter even as it was brand new, because it had to adapt to a ground-attack role as well as an air superiority role. That’s why it plans to spend another $9.7 billion on the program after having spent about $67 billion to develop and buy the F-22 fleet, and then about another $2 billion for “reliability improvements,” GAO said.

The agency’s charge was to compare the F-22’s modernization with that of legacy aircraft, which it did, though there aren’t many useful parallels. As GAO spells out, the classic F-teens fighters that have now become icons came from a different time, and obviously were much simpler and cheaper. It took five to seven years to develop the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18, GAO said, as compared to 14 years for the F-22. The earlier jets did not have the same kind of demands for stealthiness or integration as the Raptor, so it was easier to bolt on new weapons and upgrades. The F-22, by comparison, has integrated equipment that’s tougher to upgrade, and its internal ordnance carriage means it needs new software to target and launch weapons.

All that means time, money and complexity. That’s why the Air Force hasn’t been able to upgrade its Raptors according to its initial plan, and it appears to be what makes GAO worry that the jets might be well along in service by the time they can fully perform as advertised. Here’s how the report wound up:

Although the legacy and F-22A programs began modernizing at the same general points in time, the F-22A did not originally plan for a major modernization program, so when the aircraft’s mission changed in 2003, the resources—primarily technology and funding—needed to meet the new requirements had not been fully developed or identified. As a result, the cost, schedule, and performance projections for the F-22A modernization program were not well founded and, over time, costs have doubled and the delivery of the full required capability has been delayed by more than 7 years. In addition, the majority of the F-22A modernization upgrades will be retrofitted onto fielded aircraft—a complex and costly undertaking—and by the time all of the required capabilities are fielded the amount of useful life remaining on the aircraft will likely be limited.

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Get more of these F-22s and less of the F-35s

It sounds more a case of the bean counters doing a cost benefit analysis. However many billions of dollars may only be justified if that cost is distributed over so many years of its service life… $X-million/year for so many years. The cost benefit difference between 80% and say 85% remaining service life may be such that its cheaper to buy new aircraft with those new systems integrated at fly-away.

The author is mistaken there will be no FB-22 that idea was cancelled in 07. The F-15A was NOT upgraded to F-15E in a few years. the F-15A was upgraded from A to C version in the late 70s early 80s and the F-15E didn’t fly till 1988 and not adopted till 1990, 20 years after the F-15A first flew. Overall the USAF is wasting too much time with the JSF and needs more F-22s and F-15 nex upgrade the new F-15SE stealth strike fighter. Politics is wasting time and money on the USAF wish list, not the fault of our brave pilots or aircraft companies.

Not only that, but the F-15E was not an “upgrade” to existing F-15A; it was a new-build aircraft with significant differences. (Not only that but I believe that most F-15C were new builds as well.)

As old USAF plans show, the current F-22 upgrade program is the old F-22 upgrade program from years ago. Like other defense communities, money was robbed from the earlier upgrade program to help pay for Operations: USELESS DIRT 1 and 2. Otherwise it would have been done already.

I don’t know about it being a bad idea to invest in airframes once 20 percent or what-ever service life is left. In order to get the then-new AMRAAM capability in the early 1990s, almost all the wiring harnesses were pulled from F-15C/D aircraft at the depot at Robins AFB. As you know, C/Ds had already been in service around 10 years, give or take on the airframe. Follow all the upgrades on the F-16 over its life, (including replacing nav systems on Block 3x and (4x??) ) to give them the ability to do JDAMs in the early 2000’s. That and many other upgrades. Look at the recent precision engagement package given to A-10s. –While a variety of F-22 things may be goofed up management-wise, the upgrade program is a good idea and has been figured out for sometime now. The upgrades are not all that difficult. The plans were there waiting on scare funding. Just that USAF funding for almost everything is thin. Or, USAF is a poor manager of the funds we give them. Unfortunately it seems more of the later.

This is why the Air force must start a 6th gen fighter programm.

Sense the cost per plane for the 3,000+ order of F-35’s is now in far more expensive per plane

F-35A: US$197 million (weapons system flyaway cost, 2012)[4]
F-35B: US$237.7M (weap. sys. cost, 2012)[5]
F-35C: US$236.8M (weap. sys. cost, 2012)[5]

Compared to the F-22 with just 195 built and a cost at 150mil 2009( lets say 170 mil today) how much would the price go down if the airforce ordered 400 more F-22’s?

Them you order about 400 additional F22 you will get them by approximate 130 Million per Unit by 600 additional F22 will be likely lover them 100 Million. This is at last simple Math the “high” price of the F22 is the result of the high developing costs how are already spend with other words them you calculate the price per Unit for a F22 you put a lot of money how you no longer have why is already spend for the finish developing and testing. But progressives and other F22 enemy’s love it to use this false cost Numbers like 360 Million per Unit to justify the killing of the F22.

The biggest different between the F35 and the F22 Program is what the Coast for the F22 including already the developing and testing cost while F35 Program don’t include this costs. Them the F35 can be fixed and the planed Number (over 3000) build the last F35 will cost also below 100 Million.

Not just that F-15Cs will get a upgraded now and over the next few years. F-15Cs will have head mounted targeting systems and new radar and avionics.

Don’t build the F-35 at all. Role the money into more F-22’s, upgrade our F-16’s and consider buying the F-15SE.

I could still see a purpose for the F-35 but we will only need a few…

Is it me, or do people just seem to not understand the fact that the F-35 is critical for the Navy and Marine Corp as well? You can’t operate a F-22 from a carrier of LHD.

that should read: “carrier or LHD.”

Hello Lance

Thats exactly correct the USAF is wasting too much time with this failed lemon (F-35). According to Richard ‘Rick’ Banholzer, if you have both new built F-15s and F-22s that would present a potent combination of flexibility and capability. With their greater stealth, the F-22 can be the aircraft of choice to penetrate particularly high threat zones. On the ‘friendly’ side of the forward-edge of the battle area — for e.g. cruise missile defence, defending high value assets, and if the rules of engagement dictate close in engagement the F-15 will be a better choice to operate low to medium threat zones.


You cant operate a LHD anywhere near an enemy if it’s only carrying F-35s

The navy is facing the greatest downsizing in airpower in it’s history with the fielding of the F-35. The aircraft is so bad scenarios have it being escorted by F-18s

Reduce the training flights with increased simulator flights. It’s all about flight time and flight pay. Using up the aircraft to justify new ones and keep the industry going.

Nothing gives a pilot the same level of training as a real aircraft. Simulators are great, but they are limited in the kind of training they can perform.

Come on.boys and girls…we gotta get this done…Quickly.

I haven’t seen anything on that, and I can’t see why that would be true unless the F18 were being used to buddy tank the F35.

Build more F-22s! Maybe then I can keep my job at Pratt & Whitney.

The F-15E was never an “upgrade” of the fighter version of the F-15 and wasn’t a part of the original vision. There was a requirement for a new strike aircraft and it was (wisely) decided a current weapon system should form the basis to reduce cost. SO the F-16XL(F-16E if fielded) and F-15E competed. The F-15E won, and retained its awesome A-A capability.

Grate jobe Bill, we’s can ale reed it more much cleerererer now.

Starting up the line for more F-22s is very expensive and the long lead items would take years to get.

Critical like landing on a carrier which the F-35C still can’t do?

The article mentions, but ultimately glosses over one of the real problems. F-teen fighters were all developed in 5–7 years. While all were “simple” compared to current generation, they were state of the art at the time. Using the excuse that current aircraft are more complex is like comparing an Apple II to a new iPhone. Sure the iPhone is more complex, but it’s 2012 not 1977. Back in the late 60’s (F-14/15) and early 70’s (F-16/18) things like software driven RADAR, fly-by-wire, multi-target track while scan, etc. were just as advanced as F-22/35 systems are today. There is no legit excuse for development taking as long as it does these days. All it does is rob money from production resulting in small numbers that are difficult to support.


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