F-22 Raptor Being Readied For AIM-260 Missile By ‘Inexperienced Bats’ Testers


“The Raptor has an enormous quantity of sources going into its modernization proper now to make sure it continues to be the cornerstone of air superiority for the subsequent decade-plus,” says Maj. Kevin “Renegade” Autrey, the lead F-22 Raptor operational take a look at pilot on the 422nd Check and Analysis Squadron (TES) “Inexperienced Bats,” stationed at Nellis Air Pressure Base, Nevada. Autrey is presiding over one of many busiest intervals ever with regards to enhancements for the Raptor, with some outstanding new capabilities coming down the observe.

“Air Pressure Secretary Frank Kendall says the Raptor is the air dominance answer till Subsequent-Technology Air Dominance [NGAD] comes on-line. The risk is changing into more and more superior and our reply to that’s modernizing the Raptor in a couple of other ways,” says Autrey.  It’s not simply the Raptor that could be a focus for the “Inexperienced Bats,” actually, the squadron’s fighter modernization efforts are wide-ranging and complete.

Editor’s Be aware: Welcome to Inside Nellis Week day 4 at The Battle Zone! Every day this week we could have a significant function on the plane, ways, munitions, and other people which might be main the world in air fight coaching and improvement.

“We’re ensuring all of the totally different fighter platforms — on the “4-2-2” we’re targeted on the fighters — are absolutely built-in in order that if a battle kicks off, all of the items match collectively seamlessly,” provides Lt. Col. Brent “Sword” Golden, commander of the 422nd TES. Teamwork and networking plane and floor techniques, command and management – all referred to as integration – is a key theme that runs by high-end warfighting all through the trendy U.S. Air Pressure.

An F-35A assigned to the 422nd TES. Jamie Hunter

Golden’s squadron is a part of the 53rd Wing, which is definitely headquartered at Eglin AFB, in Florida. The 422 is a tenant at Nellis underneath the 53rd Check and Analysis Group. “The Division of Protection and the USAF are placing some huge cash in direction of fighter modernization — plane just like the F-35 and the F-22 — and we want to facilitate that modernization right here on the 422.”

The 422nd TES operates roughly 60 jets –  A-10s, F-15Es, F-16s, F-22s, and F-35s. It additionally has a Command and Management (C2) division composed of Joint Terminal Assault Controllers (JTACs), Air Battle Managers, and Weapons Administrators. Its co-location with the USAF Warfare Middle at Nellis isn’t any coincidence. That is all about retaining each tools, networks, and operators at the forefront of functionality.

A tantalizing artist’s impression of a modernized F-22 launched lately by the top of Air Fight Command Gen. Mark Kelly alluded to what the longer term seems like for the Air Pressure’s most succesful air-to-air fighter. The F-22’s biggest-ever enhancement program is named the Raptor Agile Functionality Launch (RACR). The philosophy behind RACR is that roughly yearly the Air Pressure will improve the jet’s software program and typically make minor inner {hardware} adjustments utilizing speedy prototyping and speedy fielding acquisition authorities.

“The thought is that if we will modernize the Raptor on a yearly cycle, we will get [the] functionality to the warfighter on a quicker tempo than we’ve got seen within the final decade,” explains Maj. Autrey. The primary section of RACR is Launch 1, referred to as R1, which units the sphere for future updates as the key {hardware} and software program enabler for the next R2 enhancement and past.

A tantalizing artist’s impression of the fully-upgraded F-22 Raptor. USAF/ACC

The R1 take a look at design was divided into three phases. Part 1 included early operational take a look at assist to developmental testing and operational testing with early, non-fielded capabilities. Part 2 included devoted operational testing throughout mission trial occasions, and Part 3 is post-fielding monitoring. R1 developmental testing was accomplished on August 16, 2021, encompassing a complete of 263 sorties and 308 flight hours. Throughout R1’s Part 1 Pressure Improvement Analysis (FDE), operational take a look at plane collected 286 sorties and 332 flight hours. Part 2 FDE operational testing began in August 2021, and included three offensive and two defensive counter-air mission take a look at occasions on the Nevada Check and Coaching Vary (NTTR). 

An F-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES. Jamie Hunter

“We’ve got fielded R1 – we accomplished our operational testing within the fall of 2021. Proper now we’re full steam forward with R2 and about to start testing R3 this summer time,” says Autrey. The primary jets in operational squadrons have already began receiving the R1 upgrades. One of many main variations between jets which might be pre-RACR and those who are actually upgraded to R1 is the addition of an open-system structure and a Multifunctional Info Distribution System-Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS-JTRS) terminal that lastly permits the Raptor to completely use the usual Hyperlink 16 datalink protocol, together with transmitting the Raptor’s datalink ‘image.’ For its total service life, the Raptor has, with a couple of exceptions, solely been in a position to share the dear knowledge it collects with different F-22s. R1 additionally contains Mode 5 IFF [identification friend-or-foe], which is a big step ahead for the Raptor when it comes to fight identification.

The massive headline for R1 is that it prepares the Raptor for JATM – the secretive new AIM-260 Joint Air Tactical Missile, designed to offer U.S. fighters a brand new edge in air fight. “We’re in the midst of preparing for live-fire checks this summer time, a part of an enormous joint take a look at effort between the operational testers at Nellis, and the developmental testers at Edwards AFB, California. The JATM program is totally depending on RACR-standard, and the F-22 wants R1 and R2 – to an extent – to shoot JATM. That’s every thing from integrating the missile into our software program, the indications we see within the cockpit, the data we will share with the missile, and the best way we work together with the missile from a concentrating on perspective. There’s loads of new know-how in JATM that’s far more superior than our present [AIM-120 AMRAAM] missile’s know-how.”

R2, which is now getting into operational testing, contains loads of JATM software program, which is vital because the USAF develops the pilot/car interface. R3 will develop the Hyperlink 16 envelope with message sharing between allied forces and a few upgrades to current sensors.

The F-22 can also be getting an Infra-Purple Search and Monitor (IRST), which is a passive sensor that may observe targets at lengthy ranges. IRST is a notable omission from the jet’s present arsenal. “It’s going to be a podded answer,” explains Autrey. “The IRST is a strategy to get out of the RF [radio-frequency spectrum] struggle; it’s one other means to a single-ship kill-chain, and it’s acquired loads of consideration. The know-how within the IRST could be very spectacular. The IR kill-chain we’ve demonstrated within the Division of Protection is extraordinarily laborious to get proper, and we’re placing loads of time and a spotlight into making certain the pod is worth added to the warfighter.” The Battle Zone lately revealed photos of an F-22 flying with the pods throughout testing. “The pods are going to be configured to make sure the F-22 retains its stealth functionality,” Autrey confirms.

Regardless of the checklist of enhancements coming down the pipe for the Raptor, the long-held want for the F-22 pilot to have the ability to put on a helmet-mounted cueing system nonetheless stays “not a tough outlined requirement,” in line with Autrey. Whereas techniques have been examined previously, he confirms it’s on the wishlist. “We’re taking a look at whether or not we will exploit the open-system structure in R1 so as to add a business off-the-shelf helmet functionality sooner. The issue we’ve got at all times run into with the helmet is having a really two-way interactive helmet that may cue or level the AIM-9X missile. That requires in depth software program adjustments. A one-way knowledge stream, the place the jet places a few of its info into the visor, is a probably faster answer and is one thing we’re taking a look at proper now.” Autrey confirmed that the Raptor take a look at group is taking a look at three doable helmet options, and explains that the necessity is there as a result of the risk already has that functionality. 

Of the 2 F-22s on the 422’s books which have been often photographed flying out of Nellis sporting new coatings, Autrey would solely remark that these jets are carrying experimental materiel options. “We’re simply attempting to see if it’s simpler to keep up sustainability and reliability of the plane,” he mentioned.

The 422nd TES is closely concerned in F-16 improve efforts together with the brand new AN/APG-83 radar improve. Jamie Hunter

The sheer quantity of ongoing operational take a look at work for the F-35A implies that that is essentially the most quite a few fighter on the books of the “Inexperienced Bats.” Maj. Robert “Dawg” Belz has flown the F-35 since 2017 and he confirmed that, just like the F-22, the F-35 is now on a path of steady improve. “On the 422 we’re between six months and two years forward of what the warfighter will get. The Steady Functionality Improvement and Supply [C2D2] known as for a brand new Operational Flight Program [software improvement] each six months for the F-35. We’ve stretched that out to a couple of yearly cycle, and we really feel that’s a very good tempo.”

It’s not solely the fifth-generation fighters which might be topic to this succession of rolling upgrades. Maj. Matthew “Juice” Russel confirmed that the F-15E Strike Eagle is now engaged in what’s referred to as Steady Improvement and Enchancment [CD&I], which ought to mirror the iterative software program processes being seen on the F-35 and F-22. “The goal is to provide new OFPs that get up to date as quick as doable — consider smartphone-type software program updates.” He additionally commented that the capabilities afforded by the F-15E’s new Eagle Passive/Lively Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS) “allow us to get a bit nearer to the high-end struggle and use weapons such because the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Floor Standoff Missile [JASSM].”

The 422nd TES shares F-15E airframes with the co-located USAF Weapons College. Jamie Hunter

Bringing all of those strains of enchancment right into a technological melting pot is what Train Black Flag is all about. “Efforts within the take a look at world feed closely into Black Flag,” feedback Lt. Col. Golden. “One of many fundamental focuses is to convey collectively the disparate strains of effort within the 53rd Wing right into a targeted occasion.”

One of many major efforts within the newest Black Flag train held in Might out of Nellis was addressing automated long-range kill chains and the way to make sure the applied sciences that assist them are operationally prepared and related. In January, on the annual Fight Air Pressure [CAF] Weapons and Techniques Convention (WEPTAC) held at Nellis, the 422nd TES offered Watchbox and Tactical Radio Software eXtension, or Trax, two knowledge translation and routing instruments that considerably velocity up the info switch from sensor to shooter.

“Within the newest Black Flag, we usually checked out long-range threats,” commented Maj. Theodore, “CINC” Ellis. The 53rd Wing used automated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) reporting, automated intelligence gathering, and varied technique of sending knowledge utilizing automation, basically eradicating the necessity to have a human within the loop on the decision-making aspect. “This method removes delays and human error utilizing Watchbox and Trax. There’s a human within the loop, however simply watching and monitoring the system. The system is well allocating belongings and weapons to focus on units.”

One from a flight of 4 F-35As prepares to taxi out at Nellis. Jamie Hunter

“A single intelligence hit in a database throughout our Weapons College Integration section usually might take 25 to half-hour earlier than it’s handed to a shooter on Hyperlink 16,” commented Maj. Ridge Flick. “Now we’ve shortened the timeline by automated means to anyplace from 40 seconds to 4 minutes, and eliminated the errors related to people transposing info from one system to a different.”

Black Flag in Might was used to check automated intelligence reporting utilizing Watchbox and mechanically disseminated the reporting to 6 separate floor nodes and two Hyperlink 16 networks utilizing Trax. The testing proved combining machine-to-machine communication and automatic intelligence reporting permits considerably shorter kill chains.

From integrating and testing the newest AIM-260 air-to-air missile on the F-22, to rolling software program upgrades, integrating belongings as cohesive warfighting groups, and evaluating all of them in practical large-force workout routines, the 422nd TES actually is the heartbeat of the forefront of the Air Pressure. Its location at Nellis ensures it neatly feeds into the coaching on the Weapons College, makes use of the USAF’s most superior threat-replication techniques, and the wealth of different pioneering entities that make Nellis such an vital venue for the trendy U.S. Air Pressure.

Contact the editor: Tyler@thedrive.com


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