US F-22 Raptor to Receive Weapons, Stealth Suite Overhaul

© REUTERS / Master Sgt. Kevin J. GruenwaldTwo US Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters fly near Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. File photo
Two US Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters fly near Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. File photo - Sputnik International
The US Air Force (USAF) has announced an upgrade to the F-22 Raptor’s stealth suite, adding new weapons and materials to improve the advanced fighter’s capability to strike and destroy targets without being detected.

The USAF contracted Lockheed Martin to maintain the F-22's low-observable stealth coating. The contract also stipulated several modifications to the Raptor fleet: analytical condition inspections, radar cross section turntable support and antenna calibration.

"Periodic maintenance is required to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the 5th Generation Raptor's Very Low Observable radar cross-section," Lockheed said in a statement on Tuesday.

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In addition, over the next two years the USAF will hire Raytheon to upgrade their F-22's short-range air-to-air Sidewinder missiles. At present, the Raptors are equipped with AIM-9X Block 1 Sidewinders, but the Air Force has been intending to replace them with more advanced Block 2 version.

Raytheon weapons developers explained the difference in a statement: Block 2 adds a digital ignition safety device to prevent accidental detonation as well as an updated electronics system that improves the missile's lock-on capabilities, including the capability to lock onto targets after being launched.

Raytheon also intends to improve the Raptor so it can fire the AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The AMRAAM is a radar-guided "fire and forget" missile meant for all weather attacks, in contrast to the Sidewinder's head-seeking guidance system. The F-22 currently fires the AIM-120C AMRAAM, but Raytheon claims that the 120D has a 50 percent longer range, improved guidance system and a two-way data link so the pilot knows if the missile has found its mark or not.

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Additional upgrades, such as new sensors, software upgrades, hardware adjustments, new antennas and two-day data links are also in the pipeline for both the F-22 and the F-35, to be installed by 2022. The Air Force intends to pair the planes together, with the F-22's aerial combat supremacy complementing the F-35's flexibility and precision.

"The F-22 is designed to fly in concert with F-35," said Lockheed Martin F-22 Program Deputy John Cottam to Scout Warrior. "Software update 6 for the F-22 will give the Air Force a chance to link their sensor packages together. Sensors are a key component to its capability. As the F-22 gets its new weapons on board — you are going to need to upgrade the sensors to use the new weapons capability." 

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