Raptors Break Axe’s Heart


Categorie: Air, Asia |

So I was all set to fly out to Okinawa, Japan, to cover the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor’s first overseas deployment. But then word came that several of the birds had suffered software malfunctions en route to Okinawa from Hawaii. All 12 jets from the Virginia-based 27th Fighter Squadron turned back to the Aloha State … and my trip got bumped by two weeks.

Good news this ain’t. More than any other in-service fighter, the Raptor is software-driven. And any major glitches this late in the game are quite embarrassing and an obstacle in the event that the Raptor must go to war. Still, engineers are expecting to solve the problem this week and get the jets out to Japan this weekend, beginning three months of wargames that will pave the way for permanent basing of Raptors in Alaska and Hawaii, where they will be ideally positioned to counter North Korea and emerging Asian threats.

Despite being designed for the Cold War over western Europe, the Raptor with its long legs, high speed and powerful radar is perfect for Pacific operations. So much so that Australia considered applying for a small purchase to replace its F-111 Aardvark bombers. That option has been ruled out by U.S. export laws … and the Aussies have settled on a combination of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and (later) Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightnings.

Cross-posted at Ares


15 Responses to “Raptors Break Axe’s Heart”

  1. BWJones says:

    Japan eh? War Is Boring needs more photographs, so David…. if you have a need for another photographer to go with you on this trip, do let me know? :-)

  2. Publius says:

    Just curious. With aircrafts so heavily dependent on sophisticated electronics and software, what happens if China releases an atmospheric EMP weapon (like Russia has stated they WOULD do if conflict come with the US) in the early stages of a conflict over Taiwan (or any other capable country in a comparable situation)? Also, with vulnerabilities to hackers (China), what protections are there against malicious viruses? Are these stupid questions? I would find it really hard to believe that a defense department that cannot even keep its own websites from being hacked or keep track of its laptops can prevent sophisticated mischief from happening to its most important fighter.

  3. David Axe says:


    Many military computers are hardened against EMP. That’s one of the big differences between military- and civilian-grade systems.

  4. Macaca says:

    Software is usually easily updated, so it should be relatively easy to fix any software errors. I dont think it’s possible to hack a Raptor directly (no appropriate modem), but it may be possible to hack the servers where the source-software is located, so any Raptor that gets new software automatically gets the hacked version.

    But i recon thats really too much trouble: it’ll be way more effective to just hack the electical grid, or the airbase security system and physially damage the Raptors.

    And since EMP is old news i also guess the raptor is protected (cage of Faraday or something) against it. No use spending zillions on fancy new jets if they get toasted the first second of conflict.

    On a side note: a website and a uber-end fighter jet is a whole different ballgame. Both include enough human work to make both suspectable to stupid mistakes, but in a multi zillion project there should eb more check and control. It’s not as if the same type of people work on a website or in weapons tehcnologie.

  5. Cadian Jeffers says:

    The Raptor problems started when the jets crossed the international date line and the day changed. The software was not set up to do this and needed to be updated. This problem has not occured to this date due to the simple reason that Raptors have never left the US before.

  6. Vstress says:

    Yeah… EMP stuff is old news, cold war stuff. I know my Physics teacher in Secondary School (UK) was involved in making sure the UK Nuke Program stuff was safe from EMP.

    This is a good part of why military electronics are so expensive. As they also have to be protected against directed threats such as jamming etc.

  7. [...] The F-22 deployment got off to a somewhat delayed start, since the fighters’ arrival in Japan had to be postponed to fix a software issue associated with the aircraft’s navigation equipment. But now, the U.S. Air Force has finally gotten the first of a dozen of its top-of-the-line fighters to Kadena Air Force Base on the Japanese island of Okinawa as part of the first excursion for F-22s overseas. [...]

  8. John Macklethorpe says:

    Word is that the software malfunction arose from the new Microsoft OS, Vista, used to run the F-22′s systems. Whatta’ shock–buggy software from Microsoft!

  9. mike lambert says:

    Why did they turn back? Is the plane not flyable with a software glitch?I think its great we lead in stealth and electronic warfare , but our stuff should fly without it.

  10. [...] The first overseas deployment by an F-22 Raptor squadron – to Kadena Air Force Base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa – is showcasing not only the Air Force’s newest fighter jet, but also an innovative teaming of active-duty and Air National Guard airmen meant to squeeze more out of a shrinking arsenal of airplanes. [...]

  11. [...] Seit 15. Dezember 2005 ist der F-22 offiziel einsatzfähig. Der erste Übersee-Flug fand aber erst im März diesen Jahres nach Okinawa, Japan statt. Eigentlich war der Flug schon 2 Wochen früher geplant, beim Überflug der Datumsgrenze gabe es jedoch unerwartete Softwareprobleme in der Navigationssoftware, so dass die 12 F-22 der 27th Fighter Squadron nach Hawaii zurückfliegen mussten (siehe auch War is boring). Every time we fly this jet we learn something new — Raptor squadron commanding officer Lt-Col Wade Tolliver [...]

  12. Okinawa says:

    Software driven plane? Reminds me of a bad movie. :D

  13. Niyaz says:

    These run on Softwares ?? never knew about it

  14. okinawa says:

    You could see how all of that could end badly right? LOL

  15. [...] to turn back from a planned flight from Virginia to Japan in 2007 when their navigational systems went haywire as the planes crossed the International Date Line. In 2006, an F-22 pilot was stuck in his plane on [...]

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