The US Air Force will equip its F-22 Raptors with AIM-260 BVR missiles; Concept artist reveals details of JATM

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General Mark Kelly, the chief of Air Combat Command of the United States Air Force, recently shared an artist’s concept of the Lockheed Martin F-22. The image depicts three F-22s with distinctive fuel tanks and faceted pods under their wings.

However, one thing that generated a lot of interest was an unknown missile fired by one of the F-22s. This unidentified missile is most likely the highly classified AIM-260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile, according to military observers.

The existence of the AIM-260 JATM was initially confirmed in 2019 at an Air Force Lifecycle Management Center industry conference. The missile is being developed by Lockheed Martin and is expected to replace the AIM-120 AMRAAM in the near future.

The Service wants to use this missile to replace the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) with a new, longer-range weapon. The JATM has a significantly increased range over the AMRAAM, matching or exceeding the capability of newer versions of the Chinese PL-15, USAF officials say.

Future F-22 Raptor upgrades appear in art released by General Mark Kelly

The highly classified JATM is believed to combine a multi-mode seeker with a long-burning rocket system that can fit inside the F-22’s weapons bay. The Navy’s F/A-18E/F and eventually the F-35 will be equipped with it.

The image also shows a “stacked” modular propulsion system, which implies that the missile can be customized for longer or shorter missions. Although the Air Combat Command (ACC) illustration does not depict an unusual air intake or propellant openings, as seen on Lockheed Cuda advanced missile, analysts believe the missile will have breakthrough propulsion technology. The service also wants to keep this missile in a highly secure location.

In order to justify a military construction project at Hill Air Force Installation in Utah in 2019, the Air Force declared that the base required a specific storage location for the JATM.

According to the service, the reason is that the missile is “extremely sensitive”, requiring the establishment of a “special access program facility” at the base with tight security.

The USAF said the JATM “is the number one priority in air-delivered weapons for the Air Force and Navy, and prioritizes other weapon system improvements and modernization efforts.” any aircraft in service”.

Extended range fuel tanks and faceted pods

Since F-22 production ceased in 2010, the Air Force has Apparently has spent over $12 billion to continuously update the fighter. Revelations like Kelly’s image usually happen before new systems are put into service in places where they can be viewed by the public.

The tanks appear to be the same as listed in current Air Force budget documents, while the modules are most likely an infrared search and tracking system and/or an electronic warfare system.

In recent weeks, photos of an F-22 with the new outer wing pods have appeared on the internet, captured near Lockheed’s Palmdale, Calif. plant, home to its Skunk Works advanced development department.

Although its exact function is unknown, analysts believe it is a highly anticipated infrared search and tracking device and potentially an electronic warfare module.

The Air Force has previously declined to speculate what they might be. Asked about the pods and other photographs showing F-22s, F-35s and F-117s flying with very bright silver sconces, Chief of Staff General Charles Q. Brown Jr. simply replied, ” They are for a test. ”

A Raptor seen with external missile rails and AIM-120 captive carry rounds during testing in the early 2000s. Not a common combat or home defense configuration – USAF

Then there are the fuel tanks, which have a distinct appearance. According to the recently released budget books, the F-22 will get new fuel tanks and pylons that will be more economical and stealthy than their 600-gallon predecessors.

For many years the F-22 was fitted with 600 gallon fuel tanks. The main problem is that the jet is not stealthy when carrying them and the attachment surface is not smooth when released for dogfighting, causing the F-22’s radar cross section to suffer .

The extra fuel tanks are referred to as the Low Drag Tank and Pylon (LDTP) system in the Air Force’s arguments for the fiscal year 2023 budget request, which the USAF describes as a “critical capability” to retain dominance. Aerial. The additional tanks and pylons increase the F-22’s range while maintaining its “lethality and survivability”.

They will allow the F-22s to fly supersonic while remaining stealthy, but they can also be thrown using “smart rack pneumatic technology”, resulting in a smooth, stealthy surface.

Test bed for future generation aircraft

The F-22 will use technology developed for the Next Generation Air Domination (NGAD) family of systems, as previously reported by the EurAsian Times.

f-22
File Image: F-22 Raptor

The F-22, as the USAF’s first air-dominant stealth ship, is expected to serve as a test bed for some of these technologies. While the F-22 is expected to retire around 2030, service officials say its capabilities will be enhanced to keep it competitive until the NGAD replaces it.

Air Combat Command also intends to equip the F-22 with a helmet-mounted tracking system. However, the new illustration of the F-22 is not detailed enough to determine if the pilot depicted in the fighter is wearing such a helmet.

The Air Force is asking Congress to allow it to retire 33 of its oldest F-22 fighter jets in fiscal year 2023, saying upgrading them to the latest combat configuration would be too expensive. During testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall estimated the cost at $50 million per jet, or about $1.65 billion.

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