In the cockpit of the F-22 Raptor

Want to see what it is like to fly the F-22 Raptor ? Check out this video. The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation supermaneuverable fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but has additional capabilities that include ground attack, electronic warfare, and signals intelligenceroles. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is the prime contractor and is responsible for the majority of the airframe, weapon systems and final assembly of the F-22. Program partner Boeing Defense, Space & Security provides the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 during the years prior to formally entering USAF service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite a protracted and costly development period, the United States Air Force considers the F-22 a critical component of US tactical air power, and claims that the aircraft is unmatched by any known or projected fighter, while Lockheed Martin claims that the Raptor’s combination of stealth, speed, agility, precision and situational awareness, combined with air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, makes it the best overall fighter in the world today. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, said in 2004 that the “F-22 will be the most outstanding fighter plane ever built.”

The high cost of the aircraft, a lack of clear air-to-air combat missions because of delays in the Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter programs, a US ban on Raptor exports, and the ongoing development of the planned cheaper and more versatile F-35 resulted in calls to end F-22 production. In April 2009 the US Department of Defense proposed to cease placing new orders, subject to Congressional approval, for a final procurement tally of 187 Raptors.

Roll out of the last F-22 for USAF

The last F-22 Raptor to be built for the US Air Force took-off on its inaugural test flight earlier today with a company pilot at the helm, a Lockheed Martin executive says. “I was just watching the take-off of aircraft 4195, so it’s now made its first flight on its way to delivery,” says Jeff Babione, Lockheed’s F-22 programme manager. “We just had everyone outside the building watching the take-off of the final Raptor.”

Lockheed test pilot Bret Luedke– a veteran aviator who has flown almost every Raptor the company has ever built–is flying the aircraft. Babione says that company pilots usually fly two sorties to verify that the aircraft is functioning correctly. Super-cruise testing is usually conducted over Tennessee and Alabama, he says. The aircraft is capable of cruising at around Mach 1.8 without afterburners and has a top speed of around Mach 2.2. “It’s a real rigorous shakeout to make sure the aircraft is performing as designed,” Babione says.

Following the company test flights, government Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) pilots repeat those two sorties as part of the military’s acceptance procedures. The lead DCMA test pilot is Robert “Trigger” Wallace. Only after the aircraft completes those four test sorties will it receive its stealth coatings, Babione says. The aircraft also has to complete a mandatory government inspection. Lockheed will formally deliver aircraft 4195 to the USAF on 2 May, but the company will probably finish the work well ahead of time, Babione says.

The aircraft will be picked up from the factory by Lt Col Paul Moga and will then become the new “flagship” for the 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Lockheed only has five F-22s left to deliver to the USAF. The air force recently took delivery of tail number 4190, which became the new flagship for the 90th Fighter Squadron-which is also part of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf.

The aircraft passed its mandatory government inspection with flying colours, but it also has to be inspected once it arrives at its home station. The 4190 landed at Elmendorf “code one”-or with no problems to report-but it has yet to complete inspections. Babione says that he’ll know in the next few days if the aircraft will get a “Platinum Star” rating for having “zero defects.” The next aircraft, tail number 4191-which is the last jet built under a 60-aircraft, multi-year purchase-is set to be formally handed over to the USAF on 15 March, Babione says.

Air Combat and dogfight

It’s live very very soon and this is going to be very fun indeed : Air combat ! We have worked hard on this new experience where you take the controls of a light aircraft to experience something truly amazing: a real dogfight experience. After a morning briefing about flying an aircraft and the techniques of air combat, you take the control of the aircraft with a real fighter pilot in the backseat. Your mission: once in the air, get closer to your enemy, aim and shoot.

Each aircraft is equipped with laser guided systems and smoke systems. The laser system acknowledges if the shot is successful, triggering the smoke the system to go off, just like if the plane had been really hit. The feel is real, and it looks real. This truly is a mind blowing aerial experience. All the training is done by fighter pilots who are still active in the French Air Force, and some who are just retired. They have seen many war zones and have tremendous experience. You are in no better hands to live this experience.

What’s more ? This air combat experience is done in the Medoc area, near Bordeaux, famous for its vineyards. So this makes it the perfect weekend, with air combat, wine tasting, and a bit of culture in Bordeaux. Want to know more ? Follow the link to know more about our air combat dogfight experience.

In the meantime, check out some pictures of what to expect.

Russian aircraft manufacturers must develop at least two competitive prototypes of a fifth-generation fighter jet, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Thursday. “Two variants of the future fighter jet must be developed to encourage competition,” Rogozin said at a meeting with Russian lawmakers.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the future fighter must possess all technical characteristics of a fifth-generation fighter, including elements of stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, highly-integrated avionics, electronics and fire-control systems. The existing T-50 prototype, developed under the program PAK FA (Future Aviation System for Tactical Air Force) at the Sukhoi aircraft design bureau, made its maiden flight in Russia’s Far East in January 2010 and made its first public appearance at the MAKS-2011 air show near Moscow on August 17, 2011.

There are currently three fifth-generation T-50 fighters in tests, and a total number of 14 aircraft is planned for test flights by 2015. The T-50 is expected to enter service in 2016 and gradually replace MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker fighter jets in the Russian Air Force. This development is part of the multibillion dollars implementation plan to improve and develop the Russian Army, including jet fighters, over the next ten years.