The world's most capable fighter jet, the Lockheed Martin F22 Raptor, is getting better. That's thanks to a new upgrade program that gives it the latest versions of its missiles, an improved targeting sight and improved digital communication links that let it better share its data with less-capable aircraft.
The military blog Scout Warrior is reporting that the upgrades will be included in a contract to refresh the radar-absorbing coatings on the F22 fleet.
Air Force officials told Scout Warrior that they will upgrade the F-22 to accept the AIM-120D and AIM-9X Block 2 Air-to-Air missiles as well as enhanced Air-to-Surface target location capabilities by 2019. Current armament is the AIM-9X Block 1.
The AIM Block 2 variant employs a redesigned fuse and a digital ignition safety device for improved safety of the weapon when it is on the ground and while in flight to the target. It also includes a lock-on-after-launch capability using a new data link to support beyond-visual-range attacks.
Scout Warrior describes the AIM-120D as a beyond-visual-range Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM), designed for all weather day-and-night attacks. That means it is a "fire and forget" missile with active radar guidance. It also includes improved High-Angle Off-Boresight targeting technology that allows the weapon to destroy targets at a wider range of angles.
The final portion of the upgrade improves the data links from the F22 to other aircraft, letting America's premier tactical fighter share its superior view of the battlefield with older, less capable fighters like the F15 and F16 that still fly the bulk of the missions, helping them work more safely and effectively.
All of the updates will let the F22 retain its position of the best fighter plane in the world, even as rivals are dramatically improving their challengers.