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Air Platforms

Delayed F-22 upgrade slips again

26 January 2017
The Increment 3.2B upgrade designed to improve the F-22's air-to-surface capabilities has been hit with repeated delays that mean initial operational testing is not now likely to begin before September, the Pentagon has reported. Source: IHS Markit/Patrick Allen

The already delayed Increment 3.2B upgrade for the US Air Force's (USAF's) Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor combat aircraft is set to be put back still further owing to 'persistent deficiencies' with the software, the Pentagon has reported.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) 2016 Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) report released in mid-January found that delays experienced in fiscal year (FY) 2015 due to additional unplanned testing will be compounded by further delays incurred in FY 2016 that have resulted from "limited development progress".

"Given the limited development progress in FY 2016, it is unlikely that Increment 3.2B developmental testing will [be] complete as planned at the end of April 2017, or that IOT&E [Initial Operational Test and Evaluation] will begin as planned in August 2017," the report noted.

The Increment 3.2B upgrade forms part of the wider Update 5 effort for the fifth-generation stealth fighter. Specifically, it includes full integration of the Raytheon AIM-9X Block 1 and Block 2 Sidewinder air-to-air missile (AAM), and the Raytheon AIM-120D Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM); an Enhanced Stores Management System (ESMS) for weapons integration and employment improvements; Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL) improvements and electronic protection enhancements; improved emitter geo-location capability; and a Common Weapon Employment Zone (CWEZ) for AAM employment.

The Milestone C decision to authorise production was awarded in August 2016 (delayed from March of that year owing to ESMS functionality deficiencies that resulted in flight safety operating restrictions), at which time the USAF gave the go-ahead for the production of 35 of 71 planned hardware kits through low-rate initial production (LRIP). The service does not plan to procure the remaining LRIP kits until it confirms progress in resolving the deficiencies noted in FY 2016. Increment 3.2 is due to be fitted to all Block 30 and 35 jets, which equates to 150 of the 183 aircraft in service.

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