Saturday, November 27, 2010

Raptor's Claws

I recently had the opportunity to view a F-22 demo. This was the fourth time I've seen one, and it is always a thrill. This is one incredible aircraft, a huge fighter with unbelievable raw power. If you ever have the chance to go to an airshow that is featuring a F-22 demo, please go. You will not be sorry! (Don't cheat and go Youtube ... there is no way a small screen can do it justice!)

I have seen purpose built aerobatic aircraft do somersaults in mid air. I have seen them float down like a leaf. I have seen them hover in mid air, held up by the skill of the pilot and the thrust of the engine.

To see a 22 ton fighter aircraft do these things is, well, unreal.

The F-22's weight is listed at a bit more than 43,000lb. The combined thrust of the two engines is over 70,000 lb. This, plus the thrust vectoring nozzles, equals some serious go power and incredible turn capabilities. While in afterburner, the engines put out a long, beautiful shock diamond pattern, and looking into the engine exhausts while in burner is like looking at the proverbial gates of hell. I've seen a lot of military aircraft, and I can say without a doubt that no other aircraft has ever had an afterburner that was so bright, so vibrant, so angry looking as the Raptor's.

The F-22 is a stealth aircraft, at least to radar and other sensor technologies. It stands out a lot visibly, at least in comparison to something small like a F-16. It is also VERY LOUD.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Alaska F-22 Lost

A F-22A Raptor assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron, 3rd Wing crashed about 100 miles north of Elmendorf AFB Tuesday evening. The aircraft, one of two out on a routine training mission, dropped off the radar screen at 7:40pm local time while returning to the base. There was no communication from the pilot indicating trouble.

Some of the wreckage was found on Wednesday morning. The rescue helo was not able to immediately land because the crash site was deemed to be a hazardous material area, requiring proper HAZMAT equipped personnel to secure the site.

The pilot has not been found. The ejection seat has so far not been found, so it is not known if he was able to eject or went down with the aircraft. The area is very rough terrain, difficult to get into, and the search efforts have been hampered by bad weather.

The pilot has been identified by the USAF, but I will not publish it here out of respect for him and his family.

This has been a tough year for the Alaska based 3rd Wing - they lost a C-17 near the base back in July, with four fatalities.

This is the second crash of an operational F-22. With production curtailed at 187 units by Obama, Gates, and the Democrat controlled Congress, that means that 1.07% of the Raptor fleet has been lost in two incidents.

Update - portions of the ejection seat and scraps of the pilot's flight suit were found at the crash site, indicating he did not eject and died in the crash. The site is in a marshy area, and the majority of the wreckage is submerged. It will take some time to get definitive confirmation, but it is pretty certain that the incident was fatal. The pilot left behind a wife and two young children.

Update II - Air Force officials confirmed that the pilot has been prounced dead. Evidence recovered at the crash site confirms that he did not eject prior to impact, and the crash was not survivable. The investigation and recovery efforts will continue for several weeks. The crash site is in a marshy area that reaches up to 20 below zero at night. The plane's impact created a large crater, which has swallowed up the wreckage and then filled in over it.

Update III - The aircraft involved was identified as 06-4125, assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron. It was painted as the Squadron Commander's aircraft at the time of the accident.