Bad News China, The F-22 Is Getting Some Serious Upgrades

Kris Osborn

Key point: An air-to-air missile will change the game.

The Air Force and Lockheed Martin have now “validated” several new weapons on the F-22 Raptor to equip the stealth fighter with more long-range precision attack technology, a wider targeting envelope or “field of regard” and new networking technology enabling improved, real-time “collaborative targeting” between aircraft.

The two new weapons, which have been under testing and development for several years now, are advanced variants of existing weapons - the AIM-9X air-to-air missile and the AIM 120-D. Upgraded variants of each are slated to be operational by as soon as next year.

The new AIM-9X will shoot farther and reach a much larger targeting envelope for pilots. Working with a variety of helmets and display systems, Lockheed developers have added “off-boresight” targeting ability enabling pilots to attack enemies from a wide range of new angles.

“It is a much more agile missile with an improved seeker and a better field of regard. You can shoot over your shoulder. If enemies get behind me in a close-in fight, I have the right targeting on the plane to shoot them,” Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22, Lockheed, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Raytheon AIM-9X weapons developers have told Warrior that the Block 2 variant adds a redesigned fuze and a digital ignition safety device that enhances ground handling and in-flight safety. Block II also features updated electronics that enable significant enhancements, including lock-on-after-launch capability using a new weapon datalink to support beyond visual range engagements, a Raytheon statement said.

Another part of the weapons upgrade includes engineering the F-22 to fire the AIM-120D, a beyond visual range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), designed for all weather day-and-night attacks; it is a "fire and forget" missile with active transmit radar guidance, Raytheon data states.

The AIM-120D is built with upgrades to previous AMRAAM missiles by increasing attack range, GPS navigation, inertial measurement units and a two-way data link, Raytheon statements explain.

“The new AIM-120D uses a better seeker and is more maneuverable with better countermeasures,” Merchant said.

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