While we might have to wait for months to officially hear about the future upgrades that the U.S. Air Force's F-22 Raptors are set to get, an artwork posted on Instagram may have given just enough fodder for our thoughts, The Drive reported.
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Introduced in 2005, the F-22 Raptor was the world's first fifth-generation fighter aircraft to be inducted into service. Over the years, it has been an instrumental player in maintaining the superiority of the U.S. Air Force. Although the aircraft production ceased in 2011, 187 fighter jets currently in service are scheduled to get upgrades through 2031.
Gauging possible upgrades from the artwork
While the Commander of the Air Combat Command, Gen.Mark D. Kelly made no claims about the accuracy of the artistic render that he shared on his Instagram profile, the artwork likely shares a close resemblance to the actual aircraft. So, you will find no claims about the cruising speed, altitude, or stealth capabilities in this post. Here's what we can expect.
The artwork shows a new type of pod at the hard points of the underwing. The Drive reports that these could be the long-promised Infrared Search and Track (IRST) System upgrade or possibly an electronic warfare pod brought in to counter the changing demands of modern warfare.
While there is no way to ascertain what it really is, The Drive has previously reported that these new pods are currently under testing, and we could very soon know what their function is.
New fuel tanks
The new-look fuel tanks in this rendering are quite obvious but have been made familiar by the budget descriptions that came out recently. We now know that the F-22s will receive the Low Drag Tank and Pylon (LDTP) upgrade, which will increase the range and survivability of these aircraft.
The lower drag generated by these new tank designs will enable supersonic flight, while the pylons will be equipped with smart track pneumatic technology for more accurate ejection.
New missile set
The fired missile in the rendering looks like none that is currently available in the U.S. Air Force's inventory and it wouldn't be smart to dismiss it as an oversight, especially from an artist who has captured the aircraft changes quite well.
It is hard to gauge from a rendering whether the missile is a short-range or a long-range one or even meant for a surface or air target. With a lot of missiles currently under development, it is hard to guess which would it could be. But if these upgrades are anywhere likely to come in by next year or so, our money would be on the AIM-260, a beyond visual range air-to-air missile that is scheduled to be inducted around the same time period.
Now, we need to wait for some official updates to see how accurate was our understanding of the artwork.