The Air Force Times blames a combination of coalition politics and a relatively weak air-to-ground capability for keeping USAF’s exceptionally stealthy but exorbitantly expensive F-22 Raptor from yet another bug hunt:
Experts inside and outside the Air Force said international politics, a broadening of the mission based on United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, the Raptor’s limited air-to-ground weapons payload and other technical considerations all played a role in the decision.
When he testified March 17 before Congress, Schwartz was anticipating needing up to a week to prepare to impose the no-fly zone. The Air Force believed it could accomplish the mission with F-22s alone, at least two sources said, using one to two squadrons.
But that would have locked other nations out of the fight — a key political consideration for the Obama administration — and it would have limited the mission to policing the skies and enforcing the no-fly order…
Some Raptor advocates claim that deploying the aircraft from its home bases might have been “overkill,” at least from a mission threat perspective:
But others argue the mission didn’t demand the Raptor’s speed or stealthy to defeat Libya’s relatively pedestrian air defenses, which consisted largely of obsolete aircraft and older Soviet surface-to-air weaponry.
“Frankly, they might not be needed,” said Mark Gunzinger, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis in Washington. “Libya’s defenses were not that robust to begin with and were rolled back quite handily.” Haynes, the Air Force spokesman, agreed.
“Due to the assessed capabilities of the air defenses, Libya and similar areas do not necessitate a requirement for the F-22 to strike ground targets that can be prosecuted by air-to-ground platforms like the F-15E, which is capable of delivering a mixture of weapons,” Haynes said.
The Raptor is the world’s stealthiest operational aircraft and reigns supreme in the air-to-air combat area. But its combat load is roughly equivalent to that of a smaller, older F-16 — but nowhere close to the payload of the F-15 or the British Tornado.
Which cuts no grass for me: When you’re in a fight, overkill is precisely what you need.
Towards the end of the article, clarity emerges:
The F-22 is currently equipped to carry just two 1,000-pound GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Upgrades are planned to allow it to carry eight 250-pound Small Diameter Bomb. But for now, the plane can handle just two ground targets per sortie.
The F-22 lacks the infrared and radar mapping capabilities of the F-15E Strike Eagle, which can drop 24,000 pounds of ordnance on up to a dozen targets that can be selected by the weapon systems officer.
“The [Raptor's] air-to-ground capability is lagging, and is probably lagging more than the Air Force has ever wanted to admit because of the computer architecture,” one senior defense official said. As for a mission like Libya, he said, “The F-22 is not ready to do it.” Even Sambur, a Raptor proponent, concedes that may be so.
“The plane is not fully ready,” Sambur said.
This is probably one of those, “you go to
war kinetic military action with the Air Force you have” kinds of things.
Still, the bird really looks great at airshows…