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F-22 Achieves First Supersonic Flight: Readies For Supercruise

F-22 Achieves First Supersonic Flight: Readies For Supercruise

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio -- (ASC/PAM) October 12, 1998 -- Another major milestone in the F-22 flight test program was achieved Saturday when Lockheed Martin test pilot Jon Beesley flew the first F-22 built by Air Force contractors Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Pratt & Whitney faster than the speed of sound for the first time.

Test pilot Jon Beesley (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Powered by two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 engines, Beesley broke the sound barrier as he pushed the F-22 to a speed of 1.1 Mach during a flight which lasted nearly 3 hours over the skies of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. When the F-22, Raptor 4001, reached Mach speed it was flying at an altitude of 29,000 feet at approximately 3:25 Pacific Daylight Time.

"From all indications, the Raptor flew past the sound barrier with ease," said Lt. Col. C.D. Moore, commander of the F-22 Combined Test Facility, minutes after the F-22 exceeded Mach 1. "This is just one step of many for the program," said Moore.

In fact, the flight moved the Raptor one step closer to demonstrating its revolutionary ability to supercruise, i.e., fly at supersonic speeds for extended periods without the use of afterburners. An afterburner is an auxiliary power source that provides extra thrust by injecting fuel into the engine's hot exhaust gasses and burning it.

While Beesley reached a speed of only 1.1 Mach during today's flight, the F-22 is capable of supercruising at much higher supersonic speeds for much longer periods of time.

To date, high-performance fighters have had to rely on afterburners to sustain supersonic speeds; however, the F-22's advanced engines are designed to allow supersonic flight without afterburners, which avoids consuming large amounts of fuel.

"The Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 and Pratt & Whitney F119 engine are designed to take us into a new frontier--sustained supersonic flight," explained Brig. Gen. Michael C. Mushala, F-22 System Program director. "The dream has always been to sustain supersonic flight so we could take full advantage of the supersonic frontier in an air superiority fighter."

Noting the place of the Raptor's first supersonic flight in aviation history, General Mushala said, "supersonic flight began nearly 51 years ago over the skies of Edwards Air Force Base, marshaling in a new dimension of aerospace capability. It's a fitting tribute that this was done at Edwards, the place where it all began."

The F-22 Combined Test Facility, a joint Air Force/contractor team located at Edwards conducts the F-22 flight test program. It currently has two F-22s. The second F-22 off the Lockheed Martin assembly line in Georgia joined its sister ship, Raptor 01, at Edwards in August.

"Today marked a significant event in the F-22 Raptor flight test program," said Tom Burbage, F-22 Program vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin Aeronautical Systems. "With less than 100 hours of flight testing under its belt and less than 50 hours on Raptor 4001, the F-22 already has proven one of its most important advanced capabilities by flying supersonically without the help of an afterburner," he said. "Our confidence in this aircraft grows daily as we continue to achieve milestone after milestone in the air. At the same time, all team members and suppliers are working extremely hard to control costs on the ground. Together, we are producing a revolutionary aircraft that will give U.S. forces an advantage that will endure well into the next century."

The F-22 is widely regarded as the most advanced fighter in the world, combining a revolutionary leap in technology and capability with reduced support requirements and maintenance costs. It will replace the F-15 as America's front-line, air superiority fighter, with delivries to operational units beginning in 2002.

The F-22's combination of stealth, integrated avionics, maneuverability and supercruise will give Raptor pilots a first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability against the aircraft of any potential enemy. The F-22 is designed to provide not just air superiority, but air dominance, winning quickly and decisively with few U.S. casualties. The F-22 also has an inherent air-to-ground capability.

Said General Mushala, "Advances in aerospace have been a tradition for aviation pioneers in the United States and today marks a new milestone in the quest for aerospace excellence--sustained supersonic flight without the fuel penalty of an afterburner."

United States Air Force, Aeronautical Systems Center, Office of Public Affairs (ASC/PAM) Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433-7129 (937) 255-2725

Contact: Bobbie Mixon (937) 255-2725 -


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).