The F-22 - a success story
I love reading Wired and its "Danger Room" war-tech blog, but sometimes there are howlers. The recent entry on F-22s gaining sophisticated air-to-ground radar (see article here) is one of them.
The writer takes the Air Force to task for taking so long to install the avionics, which allow the aircraft to perform as an attack plane; the entry makes it sound not only as if the F-22 was conceived for a ground-attack role role, but as if ALL "fighters" have always had the dual role of interceptors and attack, and have always been designed from the ground up - sorry for the pun - as such.
That of course is not true. While the F-22 may (or may not) be the last American fighter to have been conceived strictly for a fighter-versus-fighter role, that was definitely the idea when it was drawn up. Indeed, adding capabilities for ground attack would have diminished its ability to fight other planes, as well as add to the expense.
The installation of the new capabilities are as much a story of the changing nature of the world as the fighter's development and role. Frankly, the installation of the radar could be used as an example of the robust nature of the design and the beast, rather than a blistering critique of the Air Force's development process.
There's been another important change. While the life cycle of practically everything has been shrinking - how old is your phone? - aircraft are now serving for decades, and doing it well. Imagine a 1940 Army Air Force fighter going up against a 1945 plane. Or even something from 1920 serving on the front line until 1935 or beyond.
Planes are more like ships now - expected to fill a variety of roles as they age, to be constantly updated, and still kick serious ass when they're thirty or forty years old.
So should we all.