Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Goodbye to the Cockroach

The USAF says goodbye to the F-117 at Holloman AFB, NM today...

From Ares:

The F-117 has been on its way to retirement since the early 1990s, when plans for a modernized version were passed over in favor of the Joint Strike Fighter. A Serbian missile battery shot down a Nighthawk in March 1999, raising questions about the jet's vulnerability even at night. (It was never cleared for action in daylight). By the 2000s, the F-117 was dedicated to a small set of missions, including precise attack on very hard targets and strikes where "eyes on target" were essential.

The USAF says that the F-117 is being replaced by the F-22, but that's not really correct. Until the F-22 gets its synthetic aperture radar (SAR) mode, which won't happen until 2012, the Raptor is bombing on GPS coordinates alone, which is inherently less accurate than the F-117's laser designator.

Also, there's no known hard-target version of the 1,000 lb GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), the biggest weapon carried by the F-22. The F-117's combination of stealth, laser accuracy and hard-target capability won't be equalled until the JSF enters USAF service.



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