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The US Air Force’s F/A-22 supercruise strike fighter program manager has outlined a plan of improvements to prepare for operational testing next summer and a close sharing of technologies with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project.
Lockheed Martin [LMT] is developing the F/A-22 with Boeing [BA] and Northrop Grumman [NOC]. Lockheed Martin is also building JSF.
“”There are several major challenges that we need to conquer and one is the clearance of the flight envelope…The other big issue is our avionics stability,”” Air Force Brig. Gen. Jay Jabour on Tuesday told reporters at the Air Force Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. “”The avionics systems are actually working quite well individually, but when we bring them together we occasionally have problems where the avionics shut down in flight.””
Jabour and Lockheed Martin F/A-22 general manager Robert Rearden both claimed the program was on track for operational testing in summer 2003, with fixes in place for the tail structures–which have shown unacceptable levels of aerodynamic buffeting in certain flight profiles–and for the avionics suite.
“”We want to make sure that the pilots have rock-solid capability, so that they don’t have ‘instability events’ that detract from the ability of the avionics to accomplish the mission,”” Rearden said of the latter challenge. “”We are on a roadmap to get there and I am confident that we have put in place both the plan and the resources to make sure…[the avionics] are rock solid.””
Jabour elaborated on the one remaining flight envelope issue to be cleared: fin buffeting encountered by the F/A-22’s twin tail structures when the aircraft assumes high angle of attack in flight.
“”All twin-tail aircraft at elevated angles of attack get vortex flow on the tails and it increases the loads on the tail,”” he said. “”We have been testing in that area over the last few days…We have identified the design fixes that we think will solve those problems. One area is at the bottom of the fin where we will put a modified rudder actuator, called a blow-by actuator. That development is going quite well and we think that will solve the low frequency problems. For the high frequency problems at the top of the tail we have design fixes that are really quite simple. Basically it means changing the material from a composite to titanium. We think we are finally going to close on that issue within a couple months.””
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