Ominous Warning: Russian Air Power in Ukraine

Forward Looking Infrared of F-22 Raptor

(20-July, 2010) Farnborough UK - Remarkable Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) video of the American Lockheed F-22 Raptor Stealth fighter, the most expensive fighter in service in the world today.

Courtesy of FLIR Systems and Flightglobal / http://www.flightglobal/

The implications of advanced infrared sensor technology negating “the element of surprise” the hallmark feature of the F-22 - might be substantial.

Some may argue that this type of thermal imagery is of too short range to be militarily useful. We would remind the reader that the concern is thermal (IR) detection (used in conjunction with other sensors like radar) not specifically thermal imagery. IR detection could operate at much longer ranges, particularly at high (ultra-frigid) altitudes.

The F-22s primary weapon (the AIM-120C) may operate (well) within this IR detection envelope? That Raptor aircrew must fly into (into) these IR detect-envelopes before F-22s can fire their primary weapon.
We assume USAF officials would be aware that international aviation events might incur all manner of sensitive instrumentation being pointed at aircraft during an aerial display? If this is indeed the case – then international participation by new and expensive American aircraft may well act as a quasi-Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program?

Conversely, international foreign sales of F-22 might be a motivator?

From a technology standpoint, there is nothing to stop all manner of sensitive IR (or other EM bands) location-targeting sensors from being deployed on dedicated (or integrated into) current/future ISR, AEW or AWACS class platforms.

Your Thoughts?

- All media found here is for scholarship and research purposes and protected under U.S. Internet ‘Fair Use’ Law -


  1. Your blog is very interesting. Even though I do not comment, I visit your blog often.
    Anyway, could you write an article on different fighter engines? Which is considered to be powerful, advantage of one over another, future for the engines. I am sure, for all these fighters engines play a big role.
    Thank you

  2. The F-22 is really built around stealthy ingress to a guns-hot situation anyway - most sources I've seen have said that it's not a stellar dogfighter.

    That said, the ability to enter combat via supercruise at a high altitude, and undetected at that, is a huge advantage in the BVR fight. That kind of condition set actually creates a situation in which you can get the full range envelope out of the AIM-120.

    In reality, though, I think the F-22 needs something extreme-range like a modern AIM-54 that really utilizes all of its advantages.

  3. The F-22 is quite a stellar dogfighter, easily matching aircraft much lighter than itself.

    IRST is no Raptor-killer. The USAF has experimented with IRST's time and again, and they were found lacking. Very few USAF aircraft wield them even as a backup sensor, and then it's mostly to extend ID range.

    A modern IRST can detect a Su-30 (non-afterburning) head-on at about 35km under the best of circumstances. An F-22 features active cooling, so you pick it up at even less range than this. The AIM-120C-5's and C-7's can be launched outside of that range, and even when the F-22 does enter this range, you're likely to be looking at the raptor in the crank when the IRST does pick it up ( ... if ) as your RWR goes off whining about a missile locking onto you.

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    While true that IRST detection ranges are limited at lower altitudes (because of atmospheric conditions and background IR from the ground) – this limitation recedes-away as you approach attitudes of 12,000m (40,000 ft)and above - especially for an IRST looking for a target flying above it at say 18,000-21,000-24,000m (50,000- 60,000-70,000 ft).

    Your observations are addressed in

    Note IR Characterization Data in the second graph of Mauna Kea observatory at 4,480m versus SOFIA at 13,200m altitude.

    High-flying modern IRSTs effectively deny the F-22A the high altitude arena – and therefore the kinematics advantage(s) therein.

    Once a kinematics advantage is mitigated or lost - core performance of F-22A primary weapon (AIM-120C) has greater relative importance. F-22 needs a longer range primary weapon – but to date a smaller longer-range missile round (like the Meteor) can’t fix in the F-22A bays.

    Russian more advanced versions of RWR historically picks up the attackers mid-course guidance update of attackers missile shot (at max ranges). The defender then simply executes a Doppler-Turn and disappears off the attackers radar set.

    This maneuver introduces uncertainty into attackers intercept and things begin to get complicated for everyone – very (very) quickly. Not only that - but the attacker has now exhausted 2 or 3 or 4 of his weapons and is still flying towards (at high closure rate) a defender (target) that they can’t see on radar.

    After a few moments it will be “Tally-oh” or “Tally-four” and F-22A has no helmet-sighting.

    See here:

    We doubt any these issues will be addressed by the USAF - in any serious way.

    - The Boresight


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