As the midafternoon sun
blazed on the Mojave Desert and thunderclouds loomed in the
distance, a sleek dark gray war bird took to the sky to push the
envelope of flight testing.
At the controls, Maj. John Teichert, a 411th Flight Test
Squadron test pilot, pushed the F/A-22 Raptor past Mach 1, opened
the weapons bay and released a guided bomb unit-32 1,000-pound
joint direct attack munition, marking the first time a Raptor has
dropped a JDAM at supersonic speed.
"Qualifying the Raptor to release GPS-guided bombs at supersonic
speeds is a significant milestone for the program," Major Teichert
said. "Releasing a bomb under such conditions provides a notable
increase in Raptor tactical capabilities."
The GBU-32 separation test vehicle that was released is the same
size, shape and weight as a real bomb, but without the guidance
In 2004, the Raptor proved it was capable of air-to-ground
operations with subsonic JDAM releases. Other aircraft have
released a JDAM at supersonic speeds.
"But the speeds at which we will eventually release the JDAM
over the next couple of weeks will far exceed any current
aircraft's JDAM envelope," Major Teichert said.
Additionally, this was the first time a JDAM was released
supersonically from an internal weapons bay, officials said.
Even with thorough mission planning and briefing, including
several contingencies, by the test team and the test conductor, the
testing was not without its challenges.
Some of these challenges included limited range airspace to
reach test conditions, longer range travel of the weapon after
release, more difficulty with the photo chase aircraft keeping up
with the Raptor and harsh conditions for the aircraft and the
weapon at release.
"All these factors obviously increased the stress level of the
mission,” Major Teichert said. “Attention to detail was
heightened in order to ensure a successful test.”
Major Teichert credited the mission success to thorough
coordination among the test team, the mission crew and the range
"Pilots and engineers had coordinated the details of the test
during the test planning phase," he said. "This close orchestration
allowed the test to meet its objectives as well as demonstrate
The Raptor is designed to operate high and fast where it has an
enhanced tactical advantage over air-to-air and surface-to-air
threats, the major said.
"Adding the capability of supersonic JDAM provides a substantial
increase in bomb range to destroy lethal threats well outside of
their engagement envelopes," he said. "The Raptor is essential to
the Global Strike concept, and supersonic JDAM optimizes that
capability." [ANN Thanks Christopher Ball, 95th Air Base Wing