Search this Site

Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit

The B-2 Spirit, commonly known as the Stealth Bomber, is a multirole heavy bomber with "low observable" stealth technology capable of penetrating into dense anti-aircraft defences and drop conventional or nuclear bombs. It is highly stealthed and very hard to detect. However, this is a very expensive bomber, costing the US almost 2 billion to build one, and even more to maintain it.

Although designed for Cold War scenarios, the B-2 has been used to drop bombs in Kosovo in the late 1990's and in the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Due to the bombers 'out-of-this world' looks and technology, it has been a prominent public spectacle at air shows since the 1990's and has been the subject of espionage and counter-espionage activities.


The Northrop YB-49 and Horten Ho 229 flying wing designs of the 1940s preceded the B-2. The Spirit originated from the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) black project that began in 1979. Meanwhile, as Ronald Reagan campaigned for the Presidency in 1979 and 1980, he promised a restoration of American military strength. On August 22, 1980, the Department of Defense first publicly disclosed that it was working to develop stealth aircraft including the ATB. The ATB competition was reduced to the Northrop/Boeing and Lockheed/Rockwell teams with each receiving a study contract for further work. Both teams developed flying wing designs. The Northrop design was larger while the Lockheed design was smaller and included a small tail.

The Northrop/Boeing team's ATB design was selected over the Lockheed/Rockwell design on October 20, 1981. The black project was funded under the code name "Aurora". The Northrop design would receive the designation B-2 and the name "Spirit". The bomber's design was changed in the mid-1980s when its mission profile was changed from high-altitude to low-altitude, terrain-following. The redesign delayed the B-2's first flight by two years and added about US$1 billion to the program's cost. An estimated US$23 billion was secretly spent for research and development on the B-2 by 1989. At the program's peak, 13,000 people were employed at a dedicated plant in Pico Rivera, California for the plane's engineering and portions of its manufacturing.

The B-2 was first publicly displayed on November 22, 1988, at Air Force Plant 42, Palmdale, California, where it was built. Its first public flight was on July 17, 1989 from Palmdale. The B-2 Combined Test Force, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, is responsible for flight testing Air Force aircraft.

A procurement of 132 aircraft was planned in the mid-1980s, but this was later reduced to 75. Yielding to budgetary pressures and congressional opposition, in his 1992 State of the Union Address, President George H.W. Bush announced total B-2 production would be limited to 20 aircraft. This reduction was largely a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which effectively rendered void the Spirit's primary Cold War mission.


The B-2 Spirit, as you know it, is designed for stealth and not payload. It is nuclear capable, however, and it can penetrate most of the sophisticated anti-aircraft radars without being detected. The B-2's stealth characteristics are due to its air frame and the special paint coating for maxed stealth. Also, it not only has very reduced radar signature but also reduced acoustic, infrared, and visual detectability as well.

B-2's ability steath capabilities originated from the F-117 Nighthawk, which was one of the first stealth-capable operational aircraft. Both aircraft were made possible due to a Russian-born physicist and mathematician, Pyotr Ufimtsev's, theoritical work.

The B-2 has a crew of two due to the replacement of the duties of many people by the computer. The mission commander seats on the right and the pilot on the left. The B-2's unconventional flying wing design results to control difficulties so much so that it is mostly flown by a highly advanced on board computer. The B-2 is also highly automated so a crew member can use the toilet, prepare hot food, or sleep while the other monitors the aircraft.

Congress recently funded upgrades to the B-2's weapons systems in 2008.

Operational History...

  • Kosovo War
  • War in Afghanistan
  • War in Iraq

During the Iraq War, B-2s dropped a total of 1.5 million pounds of munitions.


The B-2 is the mostly costly plane to be built in the world. The program itself costed US 44.75 billion in total in 1997 dollars (projected through 2004) which includes development, procurement, facilities, construction, and spare parts, and each unit cost about US $737 million (1997 air vehicle cost per plane). That's just the initial costs. Maintainence for the B-2 is horrific due to the cost for its air-conditioned hangars large enough for the bomber's 172 ft wingspan, which is required for the B-2 to maintain the aircraft's stealth properties and especially its "low-observable" stealthy skins. In addition, each hour of flight for the B-2 results to a whopping 119 hours of maintenance on the ground, a lot considering the B-52 only needs 53 hours and the B-1, 60 hours.

The total program cost for one B-2 averaged US$2.13 billion. There are currently 20 B-2 aircraft in active service; only a total of 21 were built.

A Costly Accident...

On February 23rd, 2008, a B-2 crashed on the runway shortly after the takeoff in the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. The two crew man ejected and survived, but the aircraft, Spirit of Kansas, 89-0127, was completely destroyed, resulting a hull loss estimated at US$1.4 billion. It had been operated by the 393rd Bomb Squadron, 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and it had logged 5 176 flight hours.


(Data from USAF Fact Sheet, Pace, Spick, Globalsecurity)

General characteristics

Crew: 2
Length: 69 ft (21.0 m)
Wingspan: 172 ft (52.4 m)
Height: 17 ft (5.18 m)
Wing area: 5,140 ft² (478 m²)
Empty weight: 158,000 lb (71,700 kg)
Loaded weight: 336,500 lb (152,200 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 376,000 lb (170,600 kg)
Powerplant: 4× General Electric F118-GE-100 non-afterburning turbofans, 17,300 lbf (77 kN) each


Maximum speed: Mach 0.95 (525 knots, 604 mph, 972 km/h)
Cruise speed: Mach 0.85 (470 knots, 541 mph, 870 km/h)
Range: 6,000 nmi (11,100 km, 6,900 mi)
Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
Wing loading: 67.3 lb/ft² (329 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight: 0.205


2 internal bays for 50,000 lb (22,700 kg) of ordnance.
80× 500 lb class bombs (Mk-82) mounted on Bomb Rack Assembly (BRA)
36× 750 lb CBU class bombs on BRA
16× 2000 lb class weapons (Mk-84, JDAM-84, JDAM-102) mounted on Rotary Launcher Assembly (RLA)
16× B61 or B83 nuclear weapons on RLA

Later avionics and equipment improvements allow B-2A to carry JSOW and GBU-28s as well. The Spirit is also designated as a delivery aircraft for the AGM-158 JASSM when the missile enters service.

Lockheed/Boeing AC-130 Spectre/Spooky Gunship

The AC-130, solely used by the United States Air Force, is a turbo prop gunship variant of the C-130 Hercules. Although Lockheed was the designer of the original airframe, Boeing was responsible for the conversion of the Hercules to a gunship. There are two variants of the AC-130 which has two different names. The AC-130H Spectre and the AC-130U Spooky. The AC-130 has a standard crew of twelve-thirteen airmen, five of which are usually officers and the rest enlisted men.

The AC-130's are stationed at Hurlburt Airfield in Northwest Florida, part of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), a component of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM).


AC-130's are heavily armed with many different weapons, even 105 mm howitzers. These weapons are fired from the side of the aircraft. They have both anti-personnel and anti-armor capabilities and are extremely accurate due to a continuous upgrade of on board systems such as radar.

The newer AC-130U Spooky variant is equipped with the AN/APQ-180, a synthetic aperture radar capable of detecting and identifying long-range targets. The airframe is much stronger with the integration of an armor protection system, or APS. It has an onboard GPS and an inertial navigation system. It also has twice the amount of munitions than the AC-130H. The AC-130U, employing technology developed in the 1990's, can attack two targets at one time with first round accuracy. Also, the Spooky has a higher service ceiling and longer range.

The older AC-130H Spectre variant, although it has half the amount of munitions capacity then the Spooky, is an excellent fire support platform. The Spectre is accurate enough to be able to place 105mm, 40mm, or 25mm munitions on targets with first round accuracy. The crews of these aircraft are extremely proficient working in military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) environments.

Operational History...
  • The AC-130 first appeared in Vietnam on September 27th, 1967 and began combat operations over Laos and South Vietnam.
  • By October 30th, 1968, enough AC-130 Gunship IIs arrived to form a squadron. The 16th Special Operations Squadron, or SOS, of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW), at the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand.
  • During the Vietnam War, the AC-130 was responsible for 10 000 trucks destroyed and participated in many crucial air support missions.
  • During the Invasion of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) in 1983, AC-130s were used to supress enemy defences enabling a successful assault of the Points Salines Airfield. One AC-130 crew won the Lieutenant General William H. Tunner Award for the mission.
  • AC-130s also participated in Operation Desert Storm. On January 31st, 1991, during the early morning hours, one AC-130H, AF Serial No. 69-6567, call sign Spirit 03, opted to stay and continue protecting the Marines despite the increasing threat of SAMs, or surface-to-air missiles. Unfortunately, Spirit 03 was shot down by a SAM and all fourteen crew members were KIA...
  • AC-130s participated in Operation Restore Hope and United Shield in Somalia.
  • AC-130s participated in the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • AC-130s participated in the 1997 evacuation of American noncombatants in Albania.
  • AC-130s were used in the buildup of US Forces in Iraq in 1998 the Iraqi government to comply with UN weapons inspections.
  • AC-130s participated in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the Iraq War.
  • US Special Operations forces used AC-130s in 2007 on attacks on suspected al-Qaeda militants in Somalia.

The AC-130 has never lost a base under its protection to enemy forces.

World Records...

The AC-130 currently holds the record of the longest sustained flight. From the 22nd to the 24th of October 1997, two AC-130U Spookys flew 36.0 hours nonstop from Hurlbert Airfield, Florida to Taegu Air Base (Daegu), South Korea. There were altogether 7 air refuelings by KC-135 Stratotankers. This record shatted the previous one by over 10 hours and the two gunships took on 410 000 lb (184 500 kg) of fuel and displayed the Gunship's ability to match their squadron's motto of 'Any Time, Any Place!'.


General Characteristics (AC_130U)

Crew: 13
Officers: 5 (pilot, copilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer)
Enlisted: 8 (flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, load master, four aerial gunners)
Length: 97 ft 9 in (29.8 m)
Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 m)
Height: 38 ft 6 in (11.7 m)
Wing area: 1745.5 ft² (162.2 m²)
Loaded weight: 122,400 lb (55,520 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 155,000 lb (69,750 kg)
Powerplant: 4× Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, 4,910 shp (3,700 kW) each

Performance (AC-130U)

Maximum speed: 260 knots (300 mph, 480 km/h)
Range: 2,200 nm (2,530 mi, 4,070 km)
Service ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,100 m)


AC-130A Project Gunship II
4× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
4× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
AC-130A Surprise Package, Pave Pronto, AC-130E Pave Spectre
4× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
2× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
AC-130E Pave Aegis
2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
1× 40 mm L60 Bofors cannon
1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

AC-130H Spectre
AC-130H Pave Spectre II
1× 40 mm L60 Bofors cannon
1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer
AC-130U "Spooky" Gunship
1× 25 mm (0.984 in) 5-Barrel GAU-12/U Equalizer Gatling gun
1× 40 mm L60 Bofors cannon
1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

Grumman F4F Wildcat

The Grumman F4F Wildcat, was an American carrier-based aircraft famous for its participation in many crucial battles of World War II in the Pacific Theatre. The F4F saw service under the United States Navy and the Royal Fleet Air Arm, and in fact, was the main fighter of the USN for the first year and a half of the United States involvement in World War II.


The F4F Wildcat started out as a biplane on the drawing boards, and was entered into a U.S. Navy competition. It was beat by the Brewster F2A-1 Buffalo design which resulted to its complete remodelling to a monoplane, XF4F-2. However, Brewster's Buffalo design was still considered superior overall and was chosen for productions. After some changes to the wings and the engines, the new XF4F-3 led to an order for the production of the dash three model (the name "Wildcat" was officially adopted on October 1st, 1941), with the first of which was completed in the February of 1940. The French also placed on order for the F4F-3s, but fell before they could be delivered and was ultimately transferred to the British Royal Navy, which named them "Martlet I"s.

Landing accidents were common, due to the unsual main landing gear design. This design, which was incorporated to all versions of the Wildcat, made it extremely hard to fully lock the landing in place as the fuselage-mounted landing gears had to be painstakingly hand-cranked, with a relatively narrow track.

General Motors built their own version of the Wildcat, designated FM-1. The only difference being the change in armament[1]. It remained in service throughout the remainder of the war on escort carriers where larger and heavier escort fighters could not be used.

Operational History...
  • Royal Navy- The Wildcat, or Martlet, scored its first combat victory in the European Theatre on Christmas Day of 1940, when a land-based Martlet shot down a Junkers Ju 88 over Scapa Flow. This was also the first combat victory by a US-built fighter in British Service in World War II. In mid-1941, Martlets began combat operations out at sea aboard British ships and had seen to the downing of several enemy planes.
  • U.S. Navy and Marines- The F4F Wildcat saw more action under the Americans in the Pacific Theatre. It was out-performed by the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Wildcat's major opponent in the early parts of the war in the Pacific, but it had one advantage over the Zero. The Wildcat had relatively heavy armor, and self-sealing fuel tanks. Zeros, on the other hand, sacrificed protection for agility and power. The F4F Wildcats played a prominent role in many of major battles of the Pacific, such as the defence of Wake Island, the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway, and the Guadalcanal Campaign.
During the course of the war, Navy and Marine Wildcats flew 15 553 combat sorties (14 027 from aircraft carrriers), destroying 1 327 enemy aircraft at a cost of 191 Wildcats (an overall kill-death ratio of 6.9:1). Wildcats only dropped 154 tons of bombs during World War II.

The Wildcat was replaced by the Grumman F6F Hellcat and the Chance Vought F4U Corsair which could take on the Japanese Zero on equal terms.


(Data from The American Fighter, by Angelucci, Enzo)

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 28 ft 9 in (8.76 m)
Wingspan: 38 ft (11.58 m)
Height: 11 ft 10 in (3.60 m)
Loaded weight: 7,000 lb (3,176 kg)
Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-76 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)


Maximum speed: 331 mph (531 km/h)
Range: 845 mi (1,360 km)
Service ceiling: 39,500 ft (12,000 m)


Guns: 4 × 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 450 rounds/gun
Bombs: 2 × 100 lb (45 kg) bombs and/or 2 × 58gal. drop tanks

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 28 ft 9 in (8.8 m)
Wingspan: 38 ft 0 in (11.6 m)
Height: 9 ft 2.5 in (2.8 m)
Wing area: 260 ft² (24.2 m²)
Empty weight: 5,760 lb (2,610 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 7,950 lb (3,610 kg)
Powerplant: 1× Pratt & Whitney R-1830-86 double-row radial engine, 1,200 hp (900 kW)


Maximum speed: 320 mph (290 knots, 515 km/h)
Range: 770 mi (670 nm, 1,240 km)
Service ceiling: 39,500 ft (12,000 m)
Rate of climb: 1,950 ft/min (9.9 m/s)


Guns: 6 x 0.50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns, 240 rounds/gun
Bombs: 2 × 250 lb (114 kg) bombs and/or 2 × 58 gal. droptanks

Air Cadets Rule!!!

Visit your local air cadet squadron to sign-up and learn about air planes marksmanship and get a sense of the air force. (Only for Canadians though...)

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 "Fagot"

The MiG-15 was a jet fighter developed after World War II by the Soviets. It first saw action in the Korean War from 1950-1953, fighting against the F-86 Sabre. One thing peculiar is that both of the jets look very much the same, and the reason might be that the U.S. and Russia were looking at the same blue prints of the German jet designs.

An F-86 Sabre.

A MiG-15 "Fagot".


The Fagot was one of the first jet planes to have swept wings as German research in World War II proved that piston-engined fighters with ninety-degree wings limited their high-speed performance. There were many claims that Artem Mikoyan and Mikhail Gurevich were heavily influenced by the Folke-Wulf Ta-183, but these claims were discredited as most of the Folke-Wulf engineers were captured by the West and the MiG-15 differ significantly in structure and general design with the Ta-183. Currently, most sources acknowledge that the MiG-15 is an orginal Svoiet design only benefiting from German research.

By 1946, there was increasing problems for the Soviet engineers to perfect the German HeS-011 axial-flow jet engine, making it almost impossible to power the MiG-15. There were also new airframe designs from Mikoyan-Gurevich which threatened to outstrip development of the engines to power them. Soviet aviation ministers approached the Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin with suggestions to buy advanced jet engines from the British. Stalin is said to have replied, "What fool will us his secrets?"

The proposal was, however, approved and engine designers, such as Vladimir Klimov, travelled to the UK to request the engines. To their shock and amazement, the British agreed and they were provided technical information and license to manufacture the Rolls Royce Nene, which was reverse-engineered and produced as the Klimov RD-45, which subsuquently used to power the MiG-15. Rolls Royce, however, was not able to claim £207 million in license fees from the USSR.

Operational History...

The Fagot has seen action throughout the entire Cold War, having confrontations with NATO aircraft and ending up either getting shot down, or shooting down the enemy. And as time went by, MiG-15 aces emerged from the many Soviet pilots, one of them, Yevgeny Pepelyayev having a total of 19 kills.

The MiG-15 first appeared in the Korean War, where it was greatly mistaken as the F-86 Sabre by US Forces due to their remarkable similarity. Many thought they were being attacked by their own people.

MiG-15s also participated in the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis under Egyptian pilots.


The first detailed examination of the MiG-15 was capable due to a defection by a North Korean traitor, Lieutenant No Kum-Sok. The U.S., at that time, was offering a US $100 000 (a huge amount back then) reward to any pilot who defected with a MiG-15, and No Kum-Sok recieved every cent of it. However, Lieutenant No Kum-Sok claimed he was not aware of the reward when he decided to defect. The MiG-15 was inspected thoroughly and test flown by several test pilots, as well as Chuck Yeager, the first man to survive breaking the sound barrier. Lieutenant No's aircraft is not in display in the National Museum of United States Air Force.


Generael Characteristics

Crew: MiG-15bis=1, MiG-15UTI=2
Length: 10.11 m (33 ft 2 in)
Wingspan: 10.08 m (33 ft 1 in)
Height: 3.70 m (12 ft 2 in)
Wing area: 20.6 m² (221.74 ft²)
Airfoil: TsAGI S-10 / TsAGI SR-3
Empty weight: 3,580 kg (7,900 lb)
Loaded weight: 4,960 kg (10,935 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 6,105 kg (13,460 lb)
Fuel capacity: 1,400 L (364 US gal)
Powerplant: 1× Klimov VK-1 turbojet, 26.5 kN (5,950 lbf)


Maximum speed: 1,075 km/h (668 mph)
Cruise speed: 840 km/h (520 mph)
Range: 1,200 km, 1,975 km with external tanks (745 mi / 1,225 mi)
Service ceiling: 15,500 m (50,850 ft)
Rate of climb: 50 m/s (9,840 ft/min)
Wing loading: 240.8 kg/m² (49.3 lb/ft²)
Thrust/weight: 0.54


2x 23mm cannons, 23x115mm, (80 rounds per gun ,160 rounds total), and 1x 37 mm cannon (40 rounds total)
Note: All bullets were armor piercing and highly explosive

2x 100 kg (220 lb) bombs, drop tanks, or unguided rockets on underwing hardpoints.

Rockwell B-1 Lancer- History

Debut of the first B-1B outside of a hangar in Palmdale, California, 1984. For the full description page, click here.


The B-1 was conceived as the Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA) program circa 1965. AMSA was the last in a series of programs through the 1960s that looked at replacing the B-52 Stratofortress with a multi-role supersonic aircraft capable of long-range bombing and missile launching with nuclear weapons. A series of cancellations led to its service introduction being greatly delayed, until the later half of the 1980s, over twenty years after the program first started.

1. The B-70 Valkyrie

In 1955, the USAF released system requirements for a heavy bomber with the B-52's range and payload capabilities, and the supersonic speed of the B-58, in order to replace both of these bombers by 1965. The initial requirements called for a Mach 0.9 cruise speed with a Mach 2+ dash capability. The designs that met this specification were considered unrealistically large, requiring new hangars to hold them and reinforced runways to launch them.

During the design phase new fuels and techniques evolved that would allow an aircraft with similar range to cruise all the way to its target at high speeds. The Air Force asked for new proposals based on these advances, and this work would eventually lead to the B-70 Valkyrie. The Valkyrie was a large six-engine bomber designed to fly at very high altitudes at Mach 3 to avoid defending interceptors, the only effective anti-bomber weapon at that time. Altitude alone was proving so difficult a problem that Soviet interceptors continued to fail to intercept the Lockheed U-2, running out of fuel before reaching a suitable firing point. Given the speed and altitude of the B-70, the defense would have only a few minutes to respond to an attack, and even small numbers of B-70s attacking simultaneously would ensure that most would fly right by the interceptors, regardless of how much warning time they had.

The introduction of effective anti-aircraft missiles rendered this mode of operation dangerous. Unlike a manned interceptor that maneuvers within a plane while climbing, missiles flew straight up and could reach the B-70s altitude in a few minutes. The only concern became speed; as long as the target did not fly out of range before the missile reached it an attack was possible, and a powerful radar giving the operators some "lead time" could easily solve this problem. This was proven in convincing fashion by the downing of Gary Powers' U-2 in 1960.

2. Redefined Role

In response to the missile threat, military planners switched to low-altitude penetration. By carefully selecting the line of approach to a target, and routing the flight path around known anti-aircraft sites, the radar's line-of-sight operation worked in the bomber's advantage by hiding it from view below the landscape. Aircraft speed became much less important. The targets themselves often had defenses located nearby to prevent this sort of approach all the way in, but stand-off weapons such as cruise missiles and the AGM-69 SRAM provided an attack capability from outside of the defensive missile's range. Low-altitude flight also made the bombers very difficult to detect from aircraft at higher altitudes, including interceptors, as radar systems of that generation could not "look down" due to the clutter that resulted from ground reflections.

Operations at low levels would limit the B-70 to subsonic speed, while dramatically decreasing its range due to much higher fuel requirements. The result would be an aircraft with similar speed but much less range than the B-52 it would have replaced. This was not a purely theoretical issue, this exact problem had actually occurred with the B-58, another high-speed aircraft that was forced into the low-level role to avoid missile defenses. The design had "spent" a lot in gaining medium-range Mach 2 performance, but at low altitudes it had strictly subsonic performance and such dramatically reduced range that it limited the selection of targets that could be assigned to it. The "outdated" B-52 outperformed it, as it would have the B-70.

Unsuited for this new role, the viability of the B-70 as a bomber was questioned. Citing high cost, a growing ICBM force, and poor survivability against missiles, the operational fleet was canceled in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, and the program was changed to a supersonic research program.


The first such study was known as the Subsonic Low Altitude Bomber (SLAB), which was completed in 1961. This was followed by the similar Extended Range Strike Aircraft (ERSA), which added a Variable-sweep wing planform, something then very much in vogue in the aviation industry. ERSA envisioned a relatively small aircraft with a 10,000 lb (4,500 kg) load and a range of 8,750 nautical miles (16,200 km), with 2,500 nmi (4,600 km) being flown at low altitudes. In August 1963 the similar Low-Altitude Manned Penetrator (LAMP) design was completed, which called for an aircraft with a 20,000 lb (9,000 kg) load and somewhat shorter range of 7,150 nautical miles (13,200 km).

These all culminated in the October 1963 Advanced Manned Precision Strike System (AMPSS), which led to industry studies at Boeing, General Dynamics, and North American. In mid-1964, the USAF had revised its requirements and retitled the project as Advanced Manned Strategic Aircraft (AMSA), which differed from AMPSS primarily in that it also demanded a high-speed high-altitude capability, albeit slower than the Valkyrie at about Mach 2. Rockwell engineers joked that the new name actually stood for "America's Most Studied Aircraft", given the lengthy series of design studies.

However, the A.M.S>A. project was cancelled by opposition from many high-ranked staff who preferred I.C.B.M. (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) over long-range bombers.

4. B-1A Program

The B-1A in flight showing its underside. For the full description page, click here.

President Richard Nixon re-established the program after taking office, in keeping with his flexible response strategy that required a broad range of options short of general nuclear war. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird reviewed the programs and decided to lower the numbers of FB-111s claiming it lacked the required range, and recommended that the AMSA design studies be accelerated. In April 1969 the program officially became the B-1A. This was the first entry in the new bomber designation series, first created in 1962.

Rockwell's design featured a number of features common to 1960s U.S. designs. These included the use of variable-sweep wings in order to provide both high lift during takeoff and landing, and low drag during a high-speed dash phase. With the wings set to their widest position the aircraft had considerably better lift and power than the B-52, allowing it to operate from a much wider variety of bases. Penetration of the U.S.S.R.'s defenses would take place in a dash, crossing them as quickly as possible before entering into the less defended "heartland" where speeds could be reduced again. The large size and fuel capacity of the design would allow this dash portion of the flight to be relatively long.

In order to achieve the required Mach 2 performance at high altitudes, the air intake inlets were variable. In addition, the exhaust nozzles were fully variable. Initially, it had been expected that a Mach 1.2 performance could be achieved at low altitude, which required that titanium be used in critical areas in the fuselage and wing structure. However, this low altitude performance requirement was lowered to only Mach 0.85, reducing the amount of titanium, and the overall cost.

Overall it had a range similar to that of the B-52, although more of the flight could be low-level. A combination of flying lower due to better navigation systems and a greatly reduced radar cross section made it much safer from attack by missiles, and the latter also improved its odds against fighters as well. In situations where fighters were the expected competition (i.e. outside the USSR), its high-speed dash was a potentially useful technique the B-52 could not match. A convincing B-52 replacement had arrived.

5. Another cancellation

When Carter took office in 1977 he ordered a review of the entire program. By this point the projected cost of the program had risen to over $100 million per aircraft, although this was lifetime cost over 20 years. He was informed of the relatively new work on stealth aircraft that had started in 1975, and decided that this was a far better avenue of approach than the B-1. Pentagon officials also stated that the ALCM launched from the existing B-52 fleet would give the USAF equal capability of penetrating Soviet airspace. With a 1,500 statute mile (2,400 km) range, the ALCM could be launched well outside the range of any Soviet defenses, and penetrate at low altitude just like a bomber, but in much greater numbers. A small number of B-52 operating outside interception range could launch hundreds of ALCMs, saturating the defense. A program to improve the B-52 and develop and deploy the ALCM would cost perhaps 20% of the price to deploy the planned 244 B-1A's.

On June 30th, 1977 Carter announced that the B-1A would be cancelled in favor of ICBMs, SLBMs, and a fleet of modernized B-52s armed with ALCMs. Carter called it "one of the most difficult decisions that I've made since I've been in office." No mention of the stealth work was made public, the program being top secret, but today it is known that he authorized the Advanced Technology Bomber (ATB) project in early 1978, which eventually led to the B-2 Spirit.

Flight tests of the four B-1A prototypes for the B-1A program continued through April 1981. The program included 70 flights totalling 378 hours. A top speed of Mach 2.22 was reached by the second B-1A. Engine testing also continued during this time with the YF101 engines totalling almost 7,600 hours.

6. Shifting priorities

It was during this period that the Soviets, also acting in proxy through Cuba, started to exert themselves in several new theaters of action, in particular the Cuban support in Angola starting in 1975 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The U.S. strategy to this point was containment and a conventional and nuclear war in Europe, which almost all military planning had been focused on. These newer actions revealed that the military was simply incapable of supporting any sort of effort outside these narrow confines.

The Army responded by accelerating its Rapid Deployment Force concept, but suffered from major problems with airlift and sealift capability. While gaming a USSR-led invasion of Iran from Afghanistan, then considered (incorrectly) to be a major Soviet goal, it was discovered that only small numbers of units could be in the field in anything close to a week. In order to slow an advance while this happened they relied on air power, but critically the Iran-Afghanistan border was outside the U.S. Navy's range, leaving this role to the Air Force. They, in turn, had limited capability to offer ground support in many areas that were outside of the range of friendly airbases. Although the B-52 had the range to support on-demand global missions, the B-52's long runway requirements dramatically limited the forward basing possibilities. In real-world scenarios the capabilities of this force against any given potential target was limited, something the B-1 would be better prepared to handle due to its better takeoff performance and range.

During the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan campaigned heavily on the platform that Carter was weak on defense, using the cancellation of the B-1 program as a prime example, a theme he continued using into the 1980s. During this time Carter's defense secretary, Harold Brown, announced the stealth bomber project, apparently implying that this was the reason for the B-1 cancellation. Brown later denied this claim, stating Carter was simply opposed to any military buildup. Although Reagan's primary attack on Carter's decision was now rendered moot, he immediately changed his complaint saying that Carter was giving away secrets and politicizing The Pentagon, charges that led to a round of sparring between Brown and Reagan in the press. Interestingly, it was Brown that had led the original AMSA program, but later came to prefer the cruise missile after taking the job of Defense Secretary in 1977.

7. B-1B program

On taking office, Reagan was faced with the same decision as Carter before; whether to continue with the B-1 for the short term, or to wait for the development of the ATB, a much more advanced aircraft. He decided to do both. Air Force studies suggested that the existing B-52 fleet with ALCM would remain a credible threat until 1985 , as it was predicted that 75% of the B-52 force would survive to attack its targets. After this period the introduction of the SA-10 missile, MiG-31 interceptor and the first Soviet AWACS systems would make them increasingly vulnerable.

During the FY81 budget funds were given to a new study for a bomber for the 1990s time-frame. These studies led to the Long-Range Combat Aircraft (LRCA) project which compared the B-1, F-111 and ATB as possible solutions. An emphasis was placed on the design being multi-role, as opposed to a purely strategic weapon. At the time it was believed the B-1 could be in operation before the B-2, covering the time period between the B-52s increasing vulnerability and the introduction of the ATB. Reagan decided the best solution was to purchase both the B-1 and ATB, and this eventually led to Reagan's October 2nd, 1981 announcement that a new version of the B-1 was being ordered to fill the LRCA role.

Numerous changes were made to the design to better fit it to real-world missions, resulting in the new B-1B. These changes included a reduction in maximum speed, which allowed the variable-aspect intake ramps to be replaced by simpler fixed geometry intake ramps in the newer design. This made the B version more radar-stealthy because the compressor faces of the engines, major radar reflectors, would be partially hidden. Low-altitude speed was somewhat improved, from about Mach 0.85 to 0.92. This left the B-1B with the capability for speeds of about Mach 1.25 "at altitude," a reduction from the B-1A's Mach 2 performance. In order to deal with the introduction of the MiG-31 and other aircraft with look-down capability, the B-1B's electronic warfare suite was significantly upgraded. These changes, along with the rampant inflation of the U.S. economy during the time, dramatically increased the nominal price to about $200 million total projected lifetime cost per completed airframe.

Opposition to the plan was widespread within Congress. Critics pointed out that many of the original problems with the concept remained. In particular it seemed the B-52 fit with electronics similar to the B-1B would be equally able to avoid interception, as the speed advantage of the B-1 was now minimal. It also appeared that the "interim" time frame served by the B-1B would be less than a decade, being rendered obsolete shortly after introduction by the much more capable ATB design. The primary argument in favor of the B-1 was its large conventional payload, and that its takeoff performance allowed it to operate with a credible bombload from a much wider variety of airfields. The debate remained rancorous. But the Air Force very astutely spread production subcontracts across many congressional districts, making the aircraft more popular on Capitol Hill
The first production model of the revised B-1B first flew in October 1984, and the first B-1B, "The Star of Abilene", was delivered to Dyess Air Force Base, Abilene, Texas, in June, 1985, with initial operational capability on October 1st, 1986. The 100th and final B-1B was delivered May 2nd, 1988.

Operational History...

The USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) had B-1 Lancers in service from 1986 through 1992, when SAC was re-organized out of existence. During that time the "Bone" was on limited alert, and the backbone of SAC's alert bombers remained B-52H models. In late 1990 engine fires in two Lancers caused the grounding of the fleet. The cause was traced back to problems in the first-stage fan. Aircraft were placed on "limited alert", meaning they were grounded unless a nuclear war broke out. They were returned to duty one-at-a-time starting in January 1991 as they were inspected and repaired. It was not until mid-April that the fleet was once again declared airworthy.

Originally designed strictly for nuclear war, the B-1's development as an effective conventional bomber was delayed until the 1990s. By 1991, the B-1 had a fledgling conventional capability, forty of them able to drop the 500 lb (230 kg) Mk-82 General Purpose (GP) bomb, although mostly from low altitude. Although cleared for this role, the problems with the engines precluded their use in Operation Desert Storm. Also, B-1s were reserved for strategic nuclear strike missions at this time.

After the absorption of Strategic Air Command (SAC) into Air Combat Command in 1992, the B-1 began to truly develop conventionally. A key part of this development was the start-up of the B-1 Weapons School Division, also in 1992. By the mid-1990s, the B-1 could employ GP weapons as well as various CBUs. By the end of the 1990s, with the advent of the "Block D" upgrade, the B-1 boasted a full array of guided and unguided munitions. This development has continued through the present.

Operationally, the B-1 was first used in combat in support of operations against Iraq during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, employing unguided GP weapons. B-1s have been subsequently used in Operation Allied Force (Kosovo) and most notably in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In both conflicts, the B-1 employed its full array of conventional weapons, most notably the GBU-31, 2,000 lb (900 kg) Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). During OEF, the B-1 improved its mission capable rate to 79%. The B-1 continues to be used in combat to the present day. The most recent addition to its arsenal is the GBU-38, a 500 lb (230 kg) JDAM. The use of the GBU-38 reduces undesired collateral damage and is very useful in urban Close Air Support.

The B-1 now fills an important niche in the Air Force inventory. The project finished on budget, and the B-1 has higher survivability and speed when compared to the older B-52, which it was intended to replace. With the arrival of limited numbers of B-2s in the 1990s and the continuing use of B-52s, its value has been questioned. However, the capability of a high-speed strike with a large bomb payload for time-sensitive operations is useful, and no new strategic bomber is on the immediate horizon.

The B-1 holds several FAI world records for speed, and time-to-climb in different aircraft weight classes. The National Aeronautic Association recognized the B-1B for completing one of the 10 most memorable record flights for 1994.

Rockwell B-1 Lancer- Design

A B-1 lancer in flight. For the full description page, click here.
The B-1 Lancer is a supersonic United States Air Force strategic bomber with variable-sweep wings. It was introduced on October 1st, 1986, which enough range and payload to be able to replace the B-52 Stratofortress, but was developed into a primary subsonic low-level, long-range penetrator. The Lancer serves as the supersonic-capable bomber of the United States Air Force's long-range bomber force, which comprises of the sub-sonic B-52 Stratofortress, as well as the also sub-sonic, B-2 Spirit.

B-1B drawing.


The B-1 has a blended wing body configuration, with variable-sweep wing, triangular fin control surfaces and four turbofan engines, to improve range and speed with enhanced survivability. Forward swept wing settings are used for takeoff, landings and high-altitude maximum cruise. Aft swept wing settings are used in high subsonic and supersonic flight. The wings of the B-1B originally were cleared for use at settings of 15, 25, 55, and 67.5 degrees. The 45-degree setting was later cleared in 1998–99 timeframe.

The length of the aircraft presented a serious flexing problem due to air turbulence at low altitude. To alleviate this, Rockwell included small canards near the nose on the B-1. An accelerometer would actuate the canards automatically to counteract turbulence and smooth out the ride.

A B-1B cockpit at night. For the full description page, click here.

Unlike the B-1A, the B-1B made no attempt at Mach 2+ speeds. Its maximum speed at altitude is Mach 1.25 (about 950 mph or 1,530 km/h), but its low-level speed increased to Mach 0.92 (700 mph, 1,130 km/h). Technically, the current version of the aircraft can exceed its speed restriction, but not without risking potential damage to its structure and air intakes. The B-1A's engine was modified slightly to produce the F101-102, with an emphasis on durability, and increased efficiency. The core of this engine has since been re-used in several other engine designs, including the F110 which has seen use in the F-14 Tomcat, F-15K/SG variants and most recent versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It is also the basis for the non-afterburning F118 used in the B-2 Spirit bomber and the U-2S. However its greatest success was forming the core of the extremely popular CFM56 civil engine, which can be found on some versions of practically every small-to-medium sized airliner. It includes with an "Alert Start" panel on the nosegear, which quickly activated the engines upon order to scramble.

The B-1's offensive avionics include the Westinghouse (now Northrop Grumman) AN/APQ-164 forward-looking offensive passive electronically scanned array radar set with electronic beam steering (and a fixed antenna pointed downward for reduced radar observability), synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator (MTI), and terrain-following radar modes, Doppler navigation, radar altimeter, and an inertial navigation suite. From 1995 on, the B-1B Block D upgrade added a Global Positioning System receiver.

The B-1's defensive electronics include the Eaton AN/ALQ-161 radar warning and defensive jamming equipment, linked to a total of eight AN/ALE-49 flare dispensers located on top behind the canopy, which are handled by the AN/ASQ-184 avionics management system. The AN/ALE-49 dispenser has a capacity of 12 MJU-23A/B flares each. The MJU-23A/B flare is one of the world's largest infrared countermeasure flares having a gross weight of ~1170 g. The cylindrical Magnesium/Teflon/Viton pellet has a net weight of ~1470 g. The Plans for a defensive systems upgrade program (DSUP) were cancelled for budgetary reasons. The B-1 has also been equipped to carry the ALE-50 Towed Decoy System. The Lancer has an additional Doppler tail-warning radar to detect aircraft or missiles approaching from the rear.

Also aiding the B-1's survivability is its relatively low radar cross-section (RCS). Although not technically a stealth aircraft in a comprehensive sense, thanks to the aircraft's structure, serpentine intake paths and use of radar-absorbent material its RCS is about 1/50th that of the B-52 (probably about 26 ft²/2.4 m²), although the Lancer is not substantially smaller in mass than the Stratofortress.

The B-1 has been upgraded since production through the "Conventional Mission Upgrade Program". This multi-stage program added a new MIL-STD-1760 smart-weapons interface that enables the use of the Joint Direct Attack Munition and other precision-guided conventional weapons, such as the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD), the AGM-154 Joint Standoff Weapon (JSOW), and the AGM-158 JASSM (Joint Air to Surface Standoff Munition). Future precision munitions include the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. These and other improvements are intended to ensure that the B-1 will be viable through approximately 2020. In addition, the Air Force has recently announced a program to keep the aircraft flying until at least 2040.

B-1B at R.I.A.T. 2004. For the full description page, click here.


1. General characteristics

  • Crew: 4 (aircraft commander, copilot, offensive systems officer and defensive systems officer)
  • Length: 146 ft (44.5 m)
  • Wingspan:
    • Extended: 137 ft (41.8 m)
    • Swept: 79 ft (24.1 m)
  • Height: 34 ft (10.4 m)
  • Wing area: 1,950 ft² (181.2 m²)
  • Airfoil: NA69-190-2
  • Empty weight: 192,000 lb (87,100 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 326,000 lb (148,000 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 477,000 lb (216,400 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4× General Electric F101-GE-102 augmented turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 14,600 lbf (64.9 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 30,780 lbf (136.92 kN) each
  • Fuel capacity, optional: 10,000 U.S. gal (38,000 L) fuel tank for 1-3 internal weapons bays each

2. Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 1.25 (950 mph, 1,529 km/h) at altitude (Mach 0.92, 700 mph, 1,130 km/h at low level)
  • Range: 6,478 nmi (7,456 mi, 11,998 km)
  • Combat radius: 2,993 nmi (3,445 mi, 5,543 km)
  • Service ceiling: 60,000 ft (18,000 m)
  • Wing loading: 167 lb/ft² (816 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.37

3. Armament

  • Hardpoints: six external hardpoints for 59,000 lb (27,000 kg) of ordnance (use for weapons currently restricted by START I treaty) and 3 internal bomb bays for 75,000 lb (34,000 kg) of ordnance to carry from:
  • Missiles:
    • 24× AGM-158 JASSM
    • 12× AGM-154 JSOW
  • Bombs:
    • 84× Mk-82AIR inflatable retarder general purpose bombs
    • 81× Mk-82 low drag general purpose bombs
    • 84× Mk-62 Quickstrike sea mines
    • 8× Mk-65 naval mines
    • 30× CBU-87/89/CBU-97 Cluster Bomb Units (CBU)
    • 30× CBU-103/104/105 WCMD
    • 24× GBU-31 JDAM GPS guided bombs
    • 15× GBU-38 JDAM GPS guided bombs (Mk-82 general purpose warhead)
    • 24× Mk-84 general purpose bombs
    • 96× or 144× GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb GPS guided bombs
    • 16x B61 thermonuclear variable-yield gravity bombs


  • 1× Westinghouse AN/APQ-164 forward-looking offensive passive phased-array radar
  • 1× Eaton AN/ALQ-161 radar warning and defensive jamming equipment
  • 1× AN/ASQ-184 defensive management system
  • 1× Lockheed Martin Sniper XR targeting pod.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a mid-sized, twin engine jet airliner, being developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Although not as big and luxurious as the Airbus A380, the Dreamliner is very fuel-efficient. It is the first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction, and it is also innovative in collaborate management approach with suppliers.

The Dreamliner's original development designation was 7E7, but was changed to 787 on January 28th, 2008.


1. Features

The 787 features lighter-weight construction. Its materials (by weight) are: 50% composite, 20% aluminum, 15% titanium, 10% steel, 5% other. Composite materials are significantly lighter and stronger than traditional aircraft materials, making the 787 a very light aircraft for its capabilities. By volume, the 787 will be 80% composite. Each 787 contains approximately 35 tonnes of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, made with 23 tonnes of carbon fiber. Composites are used on fuselage, wings, tail, doors, and interior. Aluminum is used on wing and tail leading edges, titanium used mainly on engines with steel used in various places.

The longest-range 787 variant can fly 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles (14,800 to 15,700 km), enough to cover the Los Angeles to Bangkok or New York City to Taipei routes. It will have a cruise speed of Mach 0.85 (561 mph, 903 km/h at typical cruise altitudes).

he 787 will seat 240 in two-class domestic configuration, with a 46-in (116.8 cm) pitch for first class and a 34-in (86.4 cm) pitch for coach class. 296 passengers can be seated in a high-density 3+2+3 coach arrangement with 36-in (91.4 cm) Business and 32-in (81.3 cm) Coach pitch. Up to 234 passengers may be seated in a three-class setup that uses 61-in (154.9 cm) pitch in First Class (2+2+2 or 1+2+1), 39-in (99 cm) pitch for Business (2+3+2 or 2+2+2) and 32-in (81.3 cm) for Coach (2+4+2). Cabin interior width is approximately 18 feet (547 cm) at armrest, and was increased by 1 inch (2.5 cm) over what was originally planned. The 787's interior cabin width is a full 15 in (38 cm) greater than that of the Airbus A330 and A340, but 5 in (13 cm) narrower than the proposed A350-800 XWB. For economy class in 2+4+2 or 3+2+3 arrangements, seat-bottom widths will be 18.5 in (47 cm), comparable to that found on the Boeing 777. For 3+3+3 seating, the seat widths would be approximately 17.2 in (43.7 cm), the same as those found on the Boeing 737. The vast majority of airlines are expected to select the 3+3+3 configuration on the 787.

The cabin windows are larger than others currently on in-service civil air transport (27 cm by 47 cm), with a higher eye level, so passengers can see the horizon, with electrochromism-based "auto-dimming" (smart glass) to reduce cabin glare and maintain transparency. These are to be supplied by PPG. Light-emitting diode (LED) cabin lighting (three color) will be used instead of fluorescent tubes, allowing the aircraft to be entirely 'bulbless' and have 128 color combinations.

A version of Ethernet—Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet (AFDX) / ARINC 664—will be used to transmit data between the flight deck and aircraft systems. The flight deck features LCD multi-function displays, all of which will use an industry standard GUI widget toolkit (Cockpit Display System Interfaces to User Systems / ARINC 661). The Lockheed Martin Orio spacecraft will use a glass cockpit derived from Rockwell Collins' 787 flight deck. Like other Boeing airliners, the 787 will use a yoke instead of a side-stick.

The internal pressure will be increased to the equivalent of 6000 feet (1800 m) altitude instead of the 8000 feet (2400 m) on conventional aircraft. According to Boeing, in a joint study with Oklahoma State University, this will significantly improve passenger comfort. Higher humidity in the passenger cabin is possible because of the use of composites (which do not corrode). Cabin air is provided by electrically driven compressors using no engine bleed air. An advanced cabin air-conditioning system provides better air quality: Ozone is removed from outside air; HEPA filters remove bacteria, viruses and fungi; and a gaseous filtration system removes odors, irritants and gaseous contaminants.

Bleedless turbofans imply the elimination of superheated air conduits normally used for de-icing, aircraft power, and other functions. These systems are to be replaced by an all-electrical system. Another new system is a wing ice protection system provided by Ultra Electronics Controls Division of the UK that uses electro-thermal heater mats attached to the aircraft slats, special electrical harnesses for transferring the electrical power to the heater mats as well as system control and power switching technology.

An Active Gust Alleviation system, similar to the system that Boeing built for the B-2 bomber, improves ride quality. Boeing, as part of its "Quiet Technology Demonstrator 2" project, is experimenting with several engine noise-reducing technologies for the 787. Among these are a redesigned air inlet containing sound-absorbing materials and redesigned exhaust duct covers whose rims are tipped in a toothed pattern to allow for quieter mixing of exhaust and outside air. Boeing expects these developments to make the 787 significantly quieter both inside and out.

Boeing engineers designed the 787 interior to better accommodate persons with mobility, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. For example, a 56-inch by 57-inch convertible lavatory includes a movable center wall that allows two separate lavatories to become one large, wheelchair-accessible facility.



Flight crewTwo
Length186 ft (57 m)206 ft (63 m)
Wingspan170 ft (52 m)197 ft (60 m)208 ft (63 m)
Wing sweepback32.2°
Height55 ft 6 in (16.92 m)
Fuselage height19 ft 5 in (5.91 m)
Fuselage width18 ft 11 in (5.75 m)
Cabin width18 ft (5.49 m)
Cargo capacity4,400 ft³ (124.6 m³) 28 LD35,400 ft³ (152.9 m³) 36 LD3
Empty weight223,000 lb (101,151.1 kg)242,000 lb (109,769.4 kg)254,000 lb (115,212.5 kg)
Maximum takeoff weight364,000 lb (165,107.6 kg)484,000 lb (219,538.7 kg)540,000 lb (244,939.9 kg)
Cruise speedMach 0.85 (903 km/h, 561 mph, 487 knots, at 40,000 ft/12.19 km)
Maximum cruise speedMach 0.89 (945 km/h, 587 mph, 510 knots, at 40,000 ft/12.19 km)
Range, fully loaded (not max payload)2,500 – 3,050 NM
(4,650 – 5,650 km)
7,650 – 8,200 NM
(14,200 – 15,200 km)
8,000 – 8,500 NM
(14,800 – 15,750 km)
Maximum fuel capacity33,528 US gal (126,917 L)36,693 US gal (138,898 L)
Service ceiling43,000 ft (13.1 km)
Engines (2×)General Electric GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000
Maximum thrust capability53,000 lbf (235.8 kN)64,000 lbf (284.7 kN)70,000 lbf (311.4 kN)

Grumman F-14 Tomcat

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a variable geometry wing aircraft, which is the United States Navy's primary maritime air superiority fight, fleet defence interceptor, and tactical reconnaissance platform from 1974, until September 22nd, 2006, when it officially retired from active duty in the United States Armed Forces, having been replaced by the McDonnel Douglas F/A-18 Hornet. However, some countries still operate F-14s, such as the Iran.

For full description page of the image above, click here.

The Tomcat replaced the McDonnel Douglas F-4 Phantom II when it first entered service in 1972 with the United States Navy, and it was the first American teen-series fighters which were designed incorporating the lessons learnt in air combat with MiGs in the Vietnam War.


The F-14 Tomcat was designed as both an air superiority fighter and a long range, naval interceptor. The F-14 has a two seat cockpit with a canopy that affords 360 degree visibility. The plane features variable geometry wings that swing automatically during flight. For high-speed intercept, they are swept back; they swing forward to allow the F-14 to turn sharply and dogfight. It was designed to improve on the F-4 Phantom's air combat performance in several respects. The F-14's fuselage and wings allow it to climb faster than the F-4, while the twin-tail arrangement offers better stability. During the Vietnam conflict, the F-4's lack of a gun was criticized by fighter pilots, and the belated use of a 20 mm gun pod attached to a hardpoint, while useful, was not an optimal solution. As a result, Grumman equipped the F-14 with an internal 20 mm Vulcan Gatling-type gun mounted on the left side, and can carry Phoenix, Sparrow, and Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles. The U.S. Navy wanted the F-14 to have a thrust-to-weight ratio of one or greater, though this was not achieved until after the F-14 entered service because of delays in engine development.

1. Wings and Fuselage

The fuselage consists of a large flat area called the "pancake". Fuel, electronics, flight controls, and the wing-sweep mechanism are all housed in the fuselage "pancake". The "pancake" also provides additional lift. The wings pivot from two extensions on either side of the "pancake", called wing gloves. The twin engines are housed in nacelles below and slightly to the rear, with the fuselage smoothly blending into the shape of the exhaust nozzles. The nacelles are spaced apart 1 - 3 feet. This produces a wide tunnel between the nacelles which causes some drag. However, this tunnel provides space to carry Phoenix or Sparrow missiles, assorted bombs, or the TARPS reconnaissance pod, and increases fuel capacity and room for equipment.

The F-14's wing sweep can be varied between 20° and 68° in flight, and is automatically controlled by an air data computer. This maintains the wing sweep to give the optimum lift-to-drag ratio as the Mach number varies, but the system can be manually overridden by the pilot if necessary. When the aircraft is parked, the wings can be "overswept" to 75°, where they overlap the tail to save space on tight carrier decks. In an emergency, the F-14 can land with the wings fully swept to 68°, although this is far from optimum and presents a significant safety hazard. The F-14 can also fly and land safely with the wings swept asymmetrically, in emergencies.

2. Armament

The Tomcat was originally designed to combat both highly maneuverable aircraft and the Soviet cruise missile/bomber threat. As a result, the aircraft was designed to act effectively in every aspect of air combat. For weaponry, the Tomcat was mainly designed as a platform for the formidable AIM-54 Phoenix, but unlike the stillborn F-111B it could also engage medium and short range threats. As such, the F-14 was a full air superiority fighter and not only a long range interceptor. It had the standard US gun, the M61 Vulcan, with 676 rounds and 4,000 or 6,000 RPM selectable (the latter usually for air-to ground missions). Over 6,700 kg of stores could be carried for combat missions in several hard points under the belly and on wing-mounted hardpoints. Commonly, this meant a maximum of two - four Phoenixs or Sparrows on the belly stations, two Phoenixs/Sparrows on the wing hardpoints, and two Sidewinders on the wing hardpoints. On occasion, four AIM-7 Sparrows (on the belly) and four AIM-9 Sidewinders (on the wingmounts) were carried, similar to the F-4 and F-15.

The theoretical maximum load of six Phoenix missiles was so heavy that such a combination was never used operationally. This meant the capability to engage six targets went unused, although early testing proved it was possible and the F-14 was never operationally required to engage six hostile targets simultaneously. Tomcats were rarely sent on patrol alone.

Operational History...

The F-14 began replacing the F-4 Phantom II in USN service starting in September 1974 with squadrons VF-1 Wolfpack and VF-2 Bounty Hunters aboard USS Enterprise and participated in the American withdrawal of Saigon. The F-14 had its first kills on August 19th, 1981 over the Gulf of Sidra in what is known as the Gulf of Sidra incident after two F-14s from VF-41 Black Aces were engaged by two Libyan Su-22 "Fitters". The F-14s evaded the short range heat seeking AA-2 "Atoll" missile and returned fire, downing both Libyan aircraft. U.S. Navy F-14s once again were pitted against Libyan aircraft on January 4th, 1989, when two F-14s from VF-32 shot down two Libyan MiG-23 "Floggers" over the Gulf of Sidra in a second Gulf of Sidr incident.

While the Tomcat was being used in combat in its intended air superiority mission over the skies of Iran in the early 1980s, the US Navy found itself flying regular daily combat missions over Lebanon to photograph activity in the Bekaa Valley. At the time, the Tomcat had been thought too large and vulnerable to be used overland, but the need for imagery was so great that Tomcat aircrews developed high speed medium altitude tactics to deal with considerable AAA and SA-7 SAM threat in the Bekaa area. An urgent combat need was stated to address the Tomcat vulnerability in this type of mission. The first exposure of a Tomcat to a SA-2 was over Somalia in April 1983 when a local battery was unaware of two Tomcats scheduled for a TARPS missions in prelude to an upcoming international exercise in vicinity of Berbera. An SA-2 was fired at the second Tomcat while conducting 10 thousand foot mapping profile at max conserve setting. The Tomcat aircrews spotted the missile launch and dove for the deck thereby evading it without damage.

During the Gulf of Sidra operations in 1986, the Tomcats were used in over-water missions only due to their vulnerability overland. It was not until Desert Shield that US Navy Tomcats were introduced to overland combat operations on a regular basis.

The participation of the F-14 Tomcat in the 1991 Operation Desert Storm consisted of Combat Air Patrol (CAP) over the Red Sea and Persian Gulf and overland missions consisting of strike escort and reconnaissance. Until the waning days of Desert Storm, in-country air superiority was tasked to USAF F-15 Eagles due to the way the Air Tasking Orders (ATO) delegated primary overland CAP stations to the F-15 Eagle. The governing Rules of Engagement (ROE) also dictated a strict Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) requirement when employing Beyond Visual Range weapons such as the AIM-7 Sparrow and particularly the AIM-54 Phoenix. This hampered the Tomcat from using its most powerful weapon. Furthermore, the powerful emissions from the AWG-9 radar are detectable at great range with a radar warning receiver. Iraqi fighters routinely displayed countertactics as soon as the Tomcats "lit them up" with the AWG-9. The Iraqis would immediately abandon the attack while well out of range, perhaps indicating their familiarity with both the Tomcat and the AIM-54 from previous encounters with Iranian F-14s. The US Navy suffered its only F-14 loss from enemy action on January 21th, 1991 when b/n 161430, an F-14A upgraded to an F-14A+, from VF-103 was shot down by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile while on an escort mission near Al Asad airbase in Iraq. Both crew survived ejection with the pilot being rescued by USAF Special Forces and the RIO being captured and held by Iraqi troops as a POW until the end of the war. The F-14 also achieved its final kill, an Mi-8 "Hip" helicopter, with an AIM-9 Sidewinder.

In 1995, F-14s from VF-14 and VF-41 participated in Operation Deliberate Force as well as Operation Allied Force in 1999, and in 1998, VF-32 and VF-213 participated in Operation Desert Fox. On 15 February 2001 the Joint Direct Attack Munition or JDAM was added to the Tomcat's arsenal. On 7 October 2001 F-14s would lead some of the first strikes into Afghanistan marking the start of Operation Enduring Freedom and the first F-14 drop of a JDAM occurred on 11 March 2002. F-14s from VF-2, VF-31, VF-32, VF-154, and VF-213 would also participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The F-14s of VF-31 and VF-213 deployed on its last combat cruise on USS Theodore Roosevelt in 2005.


The remaining intact US Navy F-14 aircraft have been stored at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group "Boneyard", at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. As of July 2007, many of the remaining 165 aircraft were being shredded to prevent parts from being acquired by Iran, the only other nation to buy the F-14. By July 2007, 23 F-14s had been shredded at a cost of $900,000. Because of the strength of the landing gear, it was removed before shredding and cut up with a torch.

Specifications (F-14D Super Tomcat)...

1. General Characteristics

Crew: 2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
Length: 62 ft 9 in (19.1 m)
Spread: 64 ft (19.5 m)
Swept: 38 ft (11.58 m)
Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
Wing area: 565 ft² (54.5 m²)
Airfoil: NACA 64A209.65 mod root, 64A208.91 mod tip
Empty weight: 43,735 lb (19,838 kg)
Loaded weight: 61,000 lb (27,700 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 74,350 lb (33,720 kg)
Powerplant: 2× General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans
Dry thrust: 13,810 lbf (61.4 kN) each
Thrust with afterburner: 27,800 lbf (124.7 kN) each

2. Performance

Maximum speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph, 2,485 km/h) at high altitude
Combat radius: 500 nmi (575 mi, 926 km)
Ferry range: 1,600 nmi (1,840 mi, 2,960 km)
Rate of climb: >45,000 ft/min (229 m/s)
Wing loading: 113.4 lb/ft² (553.9 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight: 0.91

3. Armament (13 000 lb (5,900 kg) of ordnance) including:

Guns: 1× M61 Vulcan 20 mm Gatling Gun
Missiles: AIM-54 Phoenix, AIM-7 Sparrow, AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air
Loading configurations:
2× AIM-9 + 6× AIM-54
2× AIM-9 + 2× AIM-54 + 3× AIM-7 (Most common loadout)
2× AIM-9 + 4× AIM-54 + 2× AIM-7
2× AIM-9 + 6× AIM-7
4× AIM-9 + 4× AIM-54
4× AIM-9 + 4× AIM-7
Bombs: GBU-10, GBU-12, GBU-16, GBU-24, GBU-24E Paveway I/II/III LGB, GBU-31, GBU-38 JDAM, Mk-20 Rockeye II, Mk-82, Mk-83, and Mk-84 series iron bombs

4. Avionics

Hughes AN/APG-71 radar


YF-14 '157984' displayed outside of the National Museum of Naval Aviation in April, 2008. For full description page, click here.

To see full list of surviving F-14s, click here.

Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker"

The Soviet Su-27 "Flanker" was designed to be a direct competitor to the United States new generation of fighter aircraft, which were the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18 Hornet. It had a long range, heavy armament, and a very high agility, making it the best dogfighting aircraft of all four American ones. However, it was not as advanced as the four, and could be destroyed quickly by either United States aircraft with missiles, before the Flanker could start a dogfight.

Developments from the Su-27 "Flanker" Design...
  • The Su-33 'Flanker-D' is a Fleet Defense Interceptor that was developed from the Su-27 design for use on aircraft carriers. Main differences include a tail hook and canards. Given the purpose of this interceptor, one would say that its closest counterpart is the American F-14 Tomcat, whereas the MiG-29K 'Fulcrum-D' would be analogous to the F/A-18 Hornet.
  • The Su-30 is a two-seat, dual-role fighter for all-weather, air-to-air and deep interdiction missions.
  • Further versions include the Su-34 'Fullback' strike variant and the Su-35 'Flanker-E' improved air defense fighter.


In 1969, the Soviet Union learned of the United States Air Force's selection of McDonnell Douglas to produce the Fighter Experimental design (which was to become the F-15 Eagle). In response to that upcoming threat, the Soviets instituted the PFI (perspektivnyi frontovoy istrebitel, Advanced Frontline Fighter) program for an aircraft that could match the new American fighter on its own terms.

When the specification proved too challenging and costly for a single aircraft in the number needed, the PFI specification was split into two: the LPFI (Lyogkyi PFI, Lightweight PFI) and the TPFI (Tyazholyi PFI, Heavy PFI), just as the F-15 program spawned the Lightweight Fighter (LWF) program that produced the F-16 and YF-17 Cobra. Sukhoi OKB was assigned the TPFI program.


The Su-27's basic design is aerodynamically similar to the MiG-29, but it is substantially larger. It is a very large aircraft, and to minimize its weight its structure has a high percentage of titanium (about 30%, more than any of its contemporaries). No composite materials were used. The swept wing blends into the fuselage at the leading edge extensions and is essentially a delta, although the tips are cropped for wingtip missile rails or ECM pods. The Su-27 is not a true delta, however, because it retains conventional tailplanes, with two vertical tailfins outboard of the engines, supplemented by twofold-down ventral fins for additional lateral stability.

The Su-27's Lyulka AL-31F turbofan engines are widely spaced, both for safety reasons and to ensure uninterrupted airflow through the intakes. The space between the engines also provides additional lift, reducing wing loading. Movable guide vanes in the intakes allow Mach 2+ speeds, and help to maintain engine airflow at high alpha. A mesh screen over each intake prevents debris from being drawn into the engines during take-off.

The Su-27 had the Soviet Union's first operational fly-by-wire control system, developed based on Sukhoi OKB's experience in the Sukhoi T-4 bomber project. Combined with relatively low wing loading and powerful basic flight controls, it makes for an exceptionally agile aircraft, controllable even at very low speeds and high angles of attack. In airshows the aircraft has demonstrated its maneuverability with a Cobra (Pugachev's Cobra) or dynamic deceleration - briefly sustained level flight at a 120° angle of attack. Thrust vectoring has also been tested (and is incorporated on later Su-30MKI and Su-37 models), allowing the fighter to perform hard turns with almost no radius, incorporate vertical somersaults into level motion and limited nose-up hovering.

The naval version of the 'Flanker,' the Su-27K (or Su-33), incorporates canards for additional lift, reducing take-off distances (important because the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov has no catapults). These canards have also been incorporated in some Su-30s, the Su-35, and the Su-37.

In addition to its considerable agility, the Su-27 uses its substantial internal volume for a large internal fuel capacity. In an overload configuration for maximum range, it can carry 9,400 kg (20,700 lb) of internal fuel, although its maneuverability with that load is limited, and normal load is 5,270 kg (11,620 lb).

The Su-27 is armed with a single Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 30 mm cannon in the starboard wingroot, and has up to 10 hardpoints for missiles and other weapons. Its standard missile armament for air-to-air combat is a mixture of Vympel R-73 (AA-11 Archer), Vympel R-27 (AA-10 'Alamo') weapons, the latter including extended range and IR guided models. More advanced Flanker variants (such as Su-30, -35, -37) may also carry Vympel R-77 (AA-12 Adder) missiles.

The first of the N001 series radar, the Tikhomirov (NIIR) N001 (NATO 'Slot Back'), is a pulse-Doppler set with track-while-scan capability, but its processor is relatively primitive, making it vulnerable to false alarms and blind spots, as well as being more difficult to use. During the years, under the chief designer of N001 radar, Professor Viktor Konstantinovitch Grishin, the N001 radar has been upgraded many times, resulting in derivatives including N001V, N001VE, N001VEP, all of which are in service, including those exported Flankers. Professor V.K. Grishin was the chief designer of Zalson S-800 passive phased array radar on MiG-31, and the expertise would later contribute to the design of the replacement phased array radars for the N001 series.

It was apparent that there was not much room for any significant improvement anymore for the N001 series radar, and the Su-30 and Su-35/37 aircraft have the vastly superior Tikhomirov (NIIR) 'Bars' (Panther) N011M with a passive electronically scanned array, improving range, multiple target capability, and sensitivity. The Bars (Panther) radar is scheduled to be replaced by an even more capable successor, Irbis (Snow leopard)-E phased array radar in the near future. Tikhomirov (NIIR)'s competitor, Phazotron (NIIP) also offered similar radar with passive electronically scanned array.

The Su-27 has an infrared search and track (IRST) system in the nose just forward of the cockpit, which also incorporates a laser rangefinder. This system can be slaved to the radar, or used independently for "stealthy" attacks with infrared missiles (such as the R-73 and R-27T/ET). It also controls the cannon, providing greater accuracy than a radar sighting mode.
While the Su-27 and its immediate descendants (Su-35 and -37) have outstanding maneuverability and performance, the airframe design lacks stealth features, so the radar cross section (RCS) is large.

Combat Service...

The Su-27 has seen limited action since it first entered service. Ethiopian Su-27s reportedly shot down two, three or five Eritrean MiG-29s; the first on February 25th, 1999 and the second on February 26th, 1999. and the third on May 16th, 2000. The Su-27s were also used in CAP (Combat Air Patrol) missions, suppression of air defense, and providing escort for fighters on bombing and reconnaissance missions.

In Angolan service, one Su-27 was shot down by a SA-14 MANPADS fired by UNITA forces on November 19th, 2000. Angolan Su-27 entered service in mid 2000.


Data from Gordon and Davidson 2006, KNAAPO Su-27SK page, Sukhoi Su-27SK page

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1 or 2
  • Length: 21.9 m (72 ft)
  • Wingspan: 14.7 m (48 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 5.92 m (19 ft 6 in)
  • Wing area: 62 m² (667 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 16,380 kg (36,100 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 23,430 kg (51,650 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 30,450 kg (67,100 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2× Saturn/Lyulka AL-31F turbofans

Dry thrust: 7,670 kgf (75.22 kN, 16,910 lbf) each

Thrust with afterburner: 12,500 kgf (122.6 kN, 27,560 lbf) each

  • Leading edge sweep: 42°


  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.35 (2,500 km/h, 1,550 mph) at altitude
  • Range: 3,530 km (2,070 mi) at altitude; (1,340 km / 800 mi at sea level)
  • Service ceiling: 18,500 m (62,523 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 300 m/s (64,000 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 371 kg/m² (76 lb/ft²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.09


  • 1 × 30 mm GSh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds
  • 8,000 kg (17,600 lb) on 10 external pylons
  • Up to 6 × medium-range AA missiles R-27, 2 × short-range heat-seeking AA missiles R-73
  • Upgraded Su-27SM is capable of using R-77 instead of R-27

Su-27S armament

  • 30 mm GSH-30 Cannon, 150 rounds
  • 6 × R-27R, R-27ER, R-27T, R-27ET
  • 4 × R-73E
  • FAB-250
  • FAB-500
  • B-8
  • B-13
  • S-24
  • S-25

Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor

An F-22 Raptor dropping flares

The F-22 Raptor is an American air superiority fighter that uses stealth technology. It is considered by the United States Air Force as a critical component of the United States Strike Force. In addition, the F-22 has multiple capabilities that include ground atack, electronics warfare, and signal intelligence roles.

It is claimed by many to be the world's most effective air superiority fighter and it cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft. It is also said to be "most outstanding fighter plane ever built", as claimed by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Chief of the Australian Defence Force in 2004.


In 1981 the United States Air Force (USAF) developed a requirement for a new air superiority fighter, the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), to replace the capability of the F-15 Eagle. ATF was a demonstration and validation program undertaken by the USAF to develop a next-generation air superiority fighter to counter emerging worldwide threats, including development and proliferation of Soviet-era Su-27 "Flanker"-class fighter aircraft. It was envisaged that the ATF would incorporate emerging technologies including advanced alloys and composite materials, advanced fly-by-wire flight control systems, higher power propulsion systems, and low-observable/stealth technology.

A request for proposal (RFP) was issued in July 1986, and two contractor teams, Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics and Northrop/McDonnell Douglas were selected in October 1986 to undertake a 50-month demonstration/validation phase, culminating in the flight test of two prototypes, the YF-22 and the YF-23.

On 23 April, 1991 the USAF ended the design and test-flight competition by announcing Lockheed's YF-22 as the winner. It was anticipated at the time that 650 aircraft would be ordered.

Into production...

The first production F-22 was delivered to Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, on 14 January, 2003 and "Dedicated Initial Operational Test and Evaluation" commenced on 27 October, 2004. By 2004, 51 Raptors were in service.

The first crash of a production F-22 occurred during take-off at Nellis Air Force Base on 20 December, 2004, in which the pilot ejected safely prior to impact. The crash investigation revealed that a brief interruption in power during an engine shutdown prior to flight caused a malfunction in the flight-control system; consequently, the technical data for the aircraft has been amended to avoid a recurrence of this problem.

In August 2007, the United States Air Force signed a $5 billion, multi-year contract with Lockheed Martin that will extend production to 2011, and as of 2008, F-22 Raptors are being procured at the rate of 20 per year.

In a ceremony on 29 August, 2007, Lockheed Martin reached its "100th F-22 Raptor" milestone, delivering aircraft 05-4100.

Proposed foreign purchases...

Unlike many other tactical fighters, the opportunity for export is currently non-existent because the export sale of the F-22 is barred by federal law. There was a time in the 1970s when the then-new F-16 was similarly restricted. However, regardless of restrictions, very few allies would even be considered for export sale because the F-22 is such a sensitive and expensive system. Most current customers for U.S. fighters are either acquiring earlier designs like the F-15 or F-16, or else are waiting to acquire the F-35, which contains much of the F-22's technology but is designed to be cheaper and more flexible.

The Japanese government reportedly showed some interest in buying F-22As in its Replacement-Fighter program for its Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF). In such an event, it would most likely involve a "watered-down" export variant while still retaining most of its advanced avionics and stealth characteristics. However, such a proposal would still need approval from the Pentagon, State Department and Congress.

Israeli Air Force (IAF) chief procurement officer Brigadier-General Ze'ev Snir said that, "The IAF would be happy to equip itself with 24 F-22s, but the problem at this time is the US refusal to sell the aircraft, and its $200 million price tag."

Some Australian politicians and defense commentators have proposed that Australia purchase F-22s instead of the F-35. In 2006, the Australian Labor Party supported this proposal on the grounds that the F-22 is a proven, highly capable aircraft, while the F-35 is still under development. However, the Howard government ruled out purchase of the F-22, on the grounds that it is unlikely to be released for export, and does not have sufficient ground/maritime strike capacity. This assessment was supported by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which claimed that the F-22 "has insufficient multi-role capability at too high a price." The ASPI analysis was, however, criticized by Air Power Australia.

The US Congress upheld the ban on F-22 Raptor foreign sales during a joint conference on September 27th, 2006. After talks in Washington in December 2006, the US DoD reported the F-22 would not be available for foreign sale.

Following the victory of the Australian Labor Party in the 2007 national election, the new government ordered a review of plans to procure the F-35 and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. This review will include an evaluation of the F-22's suitability for Australia; moreover, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has stated: "I intend to pursue American politicians for access to the Raptor". In February 2008, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he had no objection to sale of the Raptor to Australia, but Congress would have to change the law.


The F-22 is a fifth-generation fighter that is considered a fourth-generation stealth aircraft by the USAF. Its dual afterburning Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofans incorporate thrust vectoring, but in the pitch axis only, with a range of ±20 degrees. The maximum thrust is classified, though most sources place it at about 35,000 lbf (156 kN) per engine. Maximum speed, without external weapons, is estimated to be Mach 1.72 in supercruise mode; as demonstrated by General John P. Jumper, former US Air Force Chief of Staff, when his Raptor exceeded Mach 1.7 without afterburners on 13 January, 2005. With afterburners, it is "greater than Mach 2.0" (1,317 mph, 2,120 km/h), according to Lockheed Martin; however, the Raptor can easily exceed its design speed limits, particularly at low altitudes, with max-speed alerts to help prevent the pilot from exceeding them. Former Lockheed Raptor chief test pilot Paul Metz stated that the Raptor has a fixed inlet; but while the absence of variable intake ramps may theoretically make speeds greater than Mach 2.0 unreachable, there is no evidence to prove this. Such ramps would be used to prevent engine surge resulting in a compression stall, but the intake itself may be designed to prevent this. Metz has also stated that the F-22 has a top speed greater than 1,600 mph (Mach 2.42) and its climb rate is faster than the F-15 Eagle due to advances in engine technology, despite the F-15's thrust-to-weight ratio of about 1.2:1, with the F-22 having a ratio closer to 1:1. The US Air Force claims that the F-22A cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter.


Several small design changes were made from the YF-22A prototype to the production F-22A. The swept-back angle on the wing's leading edge was decreased from 48 degrees to 42 degrees, while the vertical stabilizer area was decreased 20%. To improve pilot visibility, the canopy was moved forward 7 inches (178 mm) and the engine intakes were moved rearward 14 inches (356 mm). The shape of the wing and stabilator trailing edges was refined to improve aerodynamics, strength, and stealth characteristics.


Although several recent Western fighter aircraft are less detectable on radar than previous designs using techniques such as radar absorbent material-coated S-shaped intake ducts that shield the compressor fan from reflecting radar waves, the F-22 design placed a much higher degree of importance on low observance throughout the entire spectrum of sensors including radar signature, visual, infrared, acoustic, and radio frequency.

The stealth of the F-22 is due to a combination of factors, including the overall shape of the aircraft, the use of radar absorbent material (RAM), and attention to detail such as hinges and pilot helmets that could provide a radar return. However, reduced radar cross section is only one of five facets that designers addressed to create a stealth design in the F-22. The F-22 has also been designed to disguise its infrared emissions to make it harder to detect by infrared homing ("heat seeking") surface-to-air or air-to-air missiles. Designers also made the aircraft less visible to the naked eye, and controlled radio and noise emissions. The Raptor has an under bay carrier made for hiding heat from missile threats, like surface-to-air missiles.

The F-22 apparently relies less on maintenance-intensive radar absorbent material and coatings than previous stealth designs like the F-117. These materials caused deployment problems due to their susceptibility to adverse weather conditions. Unlike the B-2, which requires climate-controlled hangers, the F-22 can undergo repairs on the flight line or in a normal hangar. Furthermore, the F-22 has a warning system (called "Signature Assessment System" or "SAS") which presents warning indicators when routine wear-and-tear have degraded the aircraft's radar signature to the point of requiring more substantial repairs. The exact radar cross section of the F-22 remains classified.

Operational History...

Intended to be the leading American advanced tactical fighter in the early part of the 21st century, the Raptor is an expensive fighter with an incremental cost of about US$138 million per unit. The number of aircraft to be built has dropped to 183, down from the initial requirement of 750. Part of the reason for the decrease in the requirement is that the F-35 Lightning II uses much of the technology used on the F-22, but at a much more affordable price. To a large extent the cost of these technologies is only lower for the F-35 because they have already been developed for the F-22.

YF-22 "Lightning II"...

The prototype YF-22 won a fly-off competition against the Northrop/McDonnell-Douglas YF-23 for the Advanced Tactical Fighter contract. In April 1992 during flight testing after contract award, test pilot Tom Morgenfeld escaped without injury when the first YF-22 prototype that he was flying crashed while landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The cause of the crash was found to be a flight control software error that failed to prevent a pilot-induced oscillation.

The YF-22 was a developmental aircraft that led to the F-22; however, there are significant differences between the YF-22 and the F-22. Relocation of cockpit, structural changes, and many other smaller changes exist between the two types. The two are sometimes confused in pictures, often at angles where it is difficult to see certain features. For example, there are some F-22 with pitot booms which some think are only found on the YF-22.

The YF-22 was originally given the unofficial name "Lightning II", after the WWII fighter P-38, by Lockheed, which persisted until the mid-1990s when the USAF officially named the aircraft "Raptor". For a short while, the aircraft was also dubbed "SuperStar" and "Rapier". The F-35 later received the Lightning II name on July 7th 2006.

F-22 Raptor to F/A-22 and back again...

The production model was formally named F-22 "Raptor" when the first production-representative aircraft was unveiled on 9 April, 1997 at Lockheed-Georgia Co., Marietta, Georgia. First flight occurred on 7 September, 1997.
In September 2002, Air Force leaders changed the Raptor’s designation to F/A-22. The new designation, which mimicked that of the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet, was intended to highlight plans to give the Raptor a ground-attack capability amid intense debate over the relevance of the expensive air-superiority jet. This was later changed back to simply F-22 on 12 December, 2005. On 15 December, 2005, the F-22A entered service.

Recent Developments...

In 2006, the Raptor's development team, composed of Lockheed Martin and over 1,000 other companies, plus the United States Air Force, won the Collier Trophy, American aviation's most prestigious award. The U.S Air Force will acquire F-22s that are to be divided among seven active duty combat squadrons, and jointly flown and maintained by three integrated Reserve and Air National Guard squadrons.

During Exercise Northern Edge in Alaska in June 2006, 12 F-22s of the 94th FS downed 108 adversaries with no losses in simulated combat exercises. In two weeks of exercises, the Raptor-led Blue Force amassed 241 kills against two losses in air-to-air combat, and neither Blue Force loss was an F-22.

This was followed with the Raptor's first participation in a Red Flag exercise. 14 F-22s of the 94th FS supported attacking Blue Force strike packages as well as engaging in close air support sorties themselves in Red Flag 07-1 between February 3rd and February 16th 2007. Against designed superior numbers of Red Force Aggressor F-15s and F-16s, it established air dominance using eight aircraft during day missions and six at night, reportedly defeating the Aggressors quickly and efficiently, even though the exercise rules of engagement allowed for four to five Red Force regenerations of losses but none to Blue Force. Further, no sorties were missed because of maintenance or other failures, and only one Raptor was adjudged lost against the virtual annihilation of the defending force. When their ordnance was expended, the F-22s remained in the exercise area providing electronic surveillance to the Blue Forces.

While attempting its first overseas deployment to the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on 11 February, 2007, a group of six Raptors flying from Hickam AFB experienced multiple computer crashes coincident with their crossing of the 180th meridian of longitude (the International Date Line). The computer failures included at least navigation (completely lost) and communication. The fighters were able to return to Hawaii by following their tankers in good weather. The error was fixed within 48 hours and the F-22s continued their journey to Kadena.

On 30 April 2007, the National Museum of the Air Force announced that EMD Raptor 91-4003 would be put on display later in 2007 in the space being occupied by the YF-22. The Museum publicly unveiled its Raptor 91-4003 display on January 18th, 2008.

In 2007, tests carried out by Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and L-3 Communications enabled the AESA system of a Raptor to act like a WiFi access point, able to transmit data at 548 Megabit/sec and receive at Gigabit speed; far faster than the current Link 16 system used by US and allied aircraft, which transfers data at just over 1 Megabit/sec.

On November 22nd, 2007, F-22A Raptors of the 90th Fighter Squadron performed their first intercept of two Russian Tu-95MS 'Bear-H' bombers in Alaska. This was the first time that F-22s had been called to support a NORAD mission.

On December 12th, 2007, Gen. John D.W. Corley, commander of Air Combat Command, officially declared the F-22s of the integrated active duty 1st Fighter Wing and Air National Guard 192nd FW fully operational, three years after the first Raptor arrived at Langley Air Force Base. This was followed from April 13th to April 19th, 2008 by an Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) of the integrated wing in which it received an "excellent" rating in all categories while scoring a simulated kill-ratio of 221-0.


Data from USAF, F-22 Raptor Team website, Lockheed Martin, Aviation Week, Journal of Electronic Defense (Sweetman 2000)

General Characteristics
  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 62 ft 1 in (18.90 m)
  • Wingspan: 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
  • Wing area: 840 ft² (78.04 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A?05.92 root, NACA 64A?04.29 tip
  • Empty weight: 31,670 lb (14,365 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 55,352 lb (25,107 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 80,000 lb (36,288 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 Pitch Thrust vectoring turbofans, 35,000+ lb (156+ kN) each
  • Maximum speed:
At altitude: Mach 2+ (1,325+ mph, 2,132+ km/h)
Supercruise: Mach 1.72 (1,140 mph, 1,825 km/h) at altitude
  • Range: 1,600 nmi (1,840 mi, 2,960 km) with 2 external fuel tanks
  • Combat radius: 410 nmi (471 mi, 759 km)
  • Ferry range: 2,000 mi (1,738 nmi, 3,219 km)
  • Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (19,812 m)
  • Wing loading: 66 lb/ft² (322 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.26
  • Maximum g-load: -3.5/+9.5 g
  • Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61A2 Vulcan gatling gun in starboard wing root, 480 rounds
  • Air to air loadout:
2× AIM-9 Sidewinder
  • Air to ground loadout:
2× AIM-120 AMRAAM and
2× AIM-9 Sidewinder and one of the following:
2× 1,000 lb (450 kg) JDAM or
2× Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers (WCMDs) or
8× 250 lb (110 kg) GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs

Note: It is estimated that the internal bays can carry about 2,000 lb (910 kg) worth of bombs, and/or missiles. Four external hardpoints can be fitted to carry weapons or fuel tanks, each with a capacity of about 5 000 lb (2268 kg).

  • RWR (Radar warning receiver): 250 nmi (463 km) or more
  • Radar: 125-150 miles (200-240 km) against 1 m² targets (estimated range).