The F-22’s basic challenge was to integrate stealth, supercruise, highly integrated avionics and agility into an aircraft with a longer range than the one it was to replace, the F-15 Eagle. It was also to have twice the reliability of the F-15 and half the support requirements. Although in practice, the F-22’s mission availability has risen over the last few years to being close to that of the F-15, but its support requirement is over 50 percent higher.
America’s F-22 Raptor is one of the world’s most advanced warplanes. But it has several weaknesses. For one, it’s blind in the infrared though several of its potential rivals have infrared-search-and-track sensors, effectively allowing them to scan for enemy warplanes’ heat signatures.
The last U.S. fighter to have an IRST sensor built in during development was the F-14 Tomcat. The F/A-18 Super Hornet now has the option of carrying a centerline droptank with an IRST, which will make it expensive to actually drop in combat.
The F-22 also lacks side-looking radars, which allow an aircraft to fire a missile that requires mid-course updates from the aircraft’s radar while continuing to provide tracking data after turning more than 90 degrees away from the path of the missile.
(This first appeared early last year.)
Without such a radar, an aircraft would have to keep pointing toward an enemy plane — and getting closer to any missiles an enemy might fire.
The reason for these shortcomings dates back to the Raptor’s origin.