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F-22 Upgrade Pathway Skews Towards LTA Combat

F-22 Block 50 Upgrades Focus on High-Altitude, Low-Speed Balloon Combat

Special 04.01.23 Parody Edition: After capping off its first air-to-air successes with the F-22 Raptor, the US Air Force is doubling down on a new niche for the aircraft as the premier anti-lighter-than-air-aircraft asset.

The new mission focus will be a change for the F-22 program, taking a high-speed, stealthy fighter and reforming it into a high-altitude, low-speed missile platform. Air Force secretary Frank Kendall said that the change was the perfect fit for the F-22, being the highest-performance asset in USAF inventory. 

"With increasing tensions over American airspace, the F-22 is the only reliable, high-performance option we have to take out high-altitude spy balloons. The Block 50 modification will do wonders to increase our capability to secure the skies from unwanted, stratospheric snooping." 

The modifications will hamper the F-22's performance against traditional fighter aircraft, however. "Nothing comes free," said Kendall. "In order to make sure it has enough time on target while lining up an attack run, the F-22 really needs to be slower, which really puts it at a disadvantage without additional lift."

"We expect a few additional lift devices, spoilers, and flaps will be able to let the F-22 maintain an appropriate level of stealth efficacy while providing an 80-knot attack run," said Chet Fahr, head engineer over the F-22 Block 50 program at Lockheed Martin.

"Sure, the final aircraft will have a top speed somewhere around 120 knots, and a range of about 300 nautical miles, but it's gonna be a whole lot easier to knock those balloons out of the sky." 

FMI: www.lockheedmartin.com

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