EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) --
The F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force staff conducted the first airborne separation of a small diameter bomb from the internal weapons bay of an F-22 during a September test mission here.
"This is a major milestone for the F-22 modernization roadmap," said Lt. Col. Daniel Daetz, the 411th Flight Test Squadron commander.
The drop was made to ensure the small diameter bomb, or SDB, would have a clean separation when released from the F-22.
"The test proved that our predictions were modeled properly," said Maj. Jack Fischer, a 411th Flight Test Squadron test pilot. "The bomb came out exactly as it should have for the first test, so we're on the right track."
Testing of the SDB with the F-22 is part of the Increment 3.1 upgrade to the aircraft, Major Fischer said.
Once the SDB is cleared for operational missions aboard the F-22, it will enable the aircraft to carry four times the weapons load, Major Fischer said. The F-22 can carry eight SDBs with two advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles.
"Instead of taking two Joint Direct Attack Munitions, we can carry eight SDBs," the major said. "It also increases our range considerably. The SDB envelope will be the highest and fastest of currently fielded Air Force weapons."
Carrying the SDB internally is important to maintaining the F-22's stealth because external weapons could be picked up by radar, said Bill Kuhlemeier, the Lockheed Martin chief flight test engineer. However, the requirement presents unique challenges.
"I think the real question for us is what challenges are there associated with carrying weapons internally," Major Fischer said. "No other aircraft can release a supersonic weapon out of an internal weapons bay. The flow field and shock wave interactions present a very complex challenge. Whether it's air-to-air or air-to-ground, we're still dealing with those same factors."
The F-22 was not originally designed for air-to-ground operations, Mr. Kuhlemeier said.
"We have to learn how much we can get away with while inducing loads on an aircraft that wasn't designed to carry bombs at first," he said. "We're finding ways to overcome that by making the Raptor stronger for the different missions."
The Combined Test Force's future flight test plans include expanding the F-22's delivery envelope to the full capability of the aircraft, Mr. Kuhlemeier said.
"Once we can say the bomb can safely be released from the aircraft, we will move to guided tests," he said. "We will then release the weapons to see if they hit their targets. We're starting easy and working our way up to more difficult tests."
Major Fischer said integration of the SDB with the F-22 is important to the warfighter because it puts almost everything in their target set.
"Targets we can't get with most weapons, we can get with the F-22 because we have stealth," he said. "With this weapon and aircraft, there is no place we can't reach and no place for an enemy to hide."
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