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F/A-22 Pilot Interviews
Article reproduced with permission from CodeOne Magazine.

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Update: DIOT&E is now part of IOT&E
Eight handpicked pilots and approximately 100 experienced maintainers and engineers of Detachment 6 at Edwards AFB, California, will put the F/A-22 through its paces later this year in a progression of tests called Dedicated Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or DIOT&E. The tests will ascertain the operational suitability and effectiveness of the Air Force’s latest fighter and produce a final report on the Raptor for the US Secretary of Defense.

Code One editor Eric Hehs visited with two of the pilots chosen to conduct these tests. Lt. Col. Art McGettrick and Maj. David Krumm, both veteran F-15C pilots and Fighter Weapons School graduates, have completed several operational assignments in the Eagle. McGettrick is the operations officer for the group. His previous assignments include a stint at Air Combat Command headquarters where he helped develop F/A-22 requirements and tactics. He gained operational test experience with the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Krumm is the assistant operations officer. He previously flew at Kadena and Mountain Home AFB operationally and acquired operational test experience at the 85th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Eglin AFB, Florida. Both pilots have more than 2,000 hours in the F-15.

What were your initial impressions of the F/A-22?

F/A-22 DIOT&E PilotsKrumm: As of 27 May, I have six hours in the F/A-22. I started flying the airplane in March 2003. The jet flies wonderfully. The airplane has tremendous handling qualities. The way the nose moves is amazing. The airplane rolls and performs great at extremely high angles of attack. The Raptor’s advantages over an F-15 are remarkable. It flies better than anything I have ever flown or flown against.

McGettrick: As of 27 May, I have forty hours in the F/A-22. I flew it for the first time in January 2003. I’m impressed by its power. The engines are unbelievably powerful. I’m also impressed by its stealth, which provides the jet with an amazing advantage over any adversary. While the Raptor is a big airplane, it is extremely nimble and powerful. It is unlike any other fighter.

How were the DIOT&E pilots selected?

F/A-22 DIOT&E PilotsMcGettrick: An official Air Force board chaired by the commander of Air Combat Command with all the two-star MAJCOM directors of operations made the selections. Pilots submitted letters of recommendation, dream sheets, and all the sorts of things we normally submit for a review board. The board went through the applications and chose the best ones. All of the DIOT&E pilots are graduates of the Weapons School. Most are F-15C pilots, though we have one F-16 and one F-15E pilot. Our detachment commander is an F-16 pilot. The operational test pilots at Nellis, on the other hand, are a more balanced mix of F-16, F-15C, and F-15E pilots because they will be testing the air-to-ground capabilities of the Raptor.

Explain the difference between developmental and operational testing and DIOT&E.

Krumm: Developmental test takes an airplane or a system in its infancy and makes sure it works and meets its basic specifications. Developmental test makes sure a system satisfies its contract requirements. In operational test, we make sure the system meets the operational specs. Operational testers release the system to the field and explain to operators how it works. They also recommend tactics for employing the system.

F/A-22 DIOT&E PilotsMcGettrick: For DIOT&E, we employ tactics developed by Air Combat Command for the F/A-22. We are not developing tactics. The operational test squadron at Nellis develops tactics. They will also train the initial group of pilots that form the first training F/A-22 squadron at Tyndall AFB, Florida. The Nellis squadron also does the follow-on operational testing and develops tactics. Detachment 6 here at Edwards is taking an early look at how the airplane performs in an operational environment. We will evaluate the airplane for about twelve months and write a final report for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. They will make a high-rate production decision based on that report.

How are DIOT&E pilots trained?

McGettrick: We complete two months of academics and simulators. Then, fourteen training sorties take the pilots through a graduation mission—a two-versus-two mission. The first three flights involve aircraft qualification and instrument check rides. Basically, we make sure a pilot can fly and land the airplane in these initial flights. We then proceed to an advanced handling mission, where we perform aggressive maneuvers to experience how the airplane feels and handles. After that, we perform basic fighter maneuvers and other missions of increasing difficulty, from one-versus-one to two-versus-one and two-versus-two. After these initial fourteen flights, we fly a set of test preparation flights. This preparation is similar to training required for pilots who are new to the F-16 or F-15. The rides are a sampling of each of the different kinds of missions, that is, defensive and offensive missions where we are either protecting our forces or attacking a simulated enemy. Overall, DIOT&E pilots fly about thirty times before the actual DIOT&E tests begin.

F/A-22 DIOT&E PilotsKrumm: The first few pilots who learn to fly the Raptor at Nellis and Tyndall will use the same pilot training syllabus we used here for DIOT&E. We’re starting with highly experienced pilots. Tyndall will use a different syllabus for later pilots. Eventually, Tyndall instructors will teach young lieutenants—pilots who have never flown a fighter before. That training requires more rides and more academics. They have to teach these new pilots not only about the jet but also basic fighter employment. Transition training, that is training for experienced pilots transitioning to the Raptor, is closer to the course we have developed here.

What are the various functions and responsibilities of the eight DIOT&E pilots?

Krumm: We are interchangeable in terms of basic flying during the tests. Any pilot can fly any portion of the tests. Of course, we do more than fly. Each pilot has specific duties and titles. One is in charge of training and safety. Another is in charge of standards and evaluation, which pertains to our check rides. I’m in charge of ensuring that the test runs correctly. I make sure we adhere to all the requirements for the test.

McGettrick: We all will have the same level of training. Each pilot will become an expert in a specific area. We have assigned people to particular systems: One to the radar. One to electronic warfare. Another to the communication, navigation, and identification suite. The system specialists learn about the systems from the system engineers. They try to understand their assigned system from a tactical perspective. They feed what they learn from these experts and from the testing into other parts of the Air Force, including the Weapons School.

F/A-22 DIOT&E PilotsWhat sort of questions are you getting from your fellow fighter pilots?

Krumm: I’m getting a lot of basic questions. They want to know how the Raptor flies. Most of my buddies know about the basic aircraft and how it should work. They want to know if it is working as advertised. I describe my flight experience and explain that the jet is maturing rapidly. Its progress in the last two years is amazing.

McGettrick: When they ask how the training and tests are going, I try to explain the many challenges with moving a new major weapons system into operational testing.

Where will the DIOT&E testing take place?

Krumm: All of the DIOT&E testing will be done from Edwards. It’s unusual for an operational test to be located at Edwards. They normally take place at Nellis or Eglin. It made sense to base the initial test here because Edwards has the infrastructure needed to support the F/A-22. Operational testing will migrate to Nellis as they get more airplanes and personnel. Most likely, some of the DIOT&E pilots here will augment the F/A-22 operations at Nellis, Tyndall, and Langley AFB in Virginia, which will be the first operational F/A-22 base. DIOT&E pilots will have the most experience in the combat air forces with the F/A-22 when this testing is over.

McGettrick: When F/A-22 pilots at Nellis and Tyndall are going through their basic F/A-22 training, we will be on the ranges fighting a sky full of bad guys and a whole bunch of simulated surface-to-air missiles with our planned tactics. We’re going to come out of this testing with a lot of experience that other F/A-22 pilots won’t approach for a while.

What is the relationship between operational and developmental testing at Edwards?

McGettrick: Air Combat Command personnel have been in the F/A-22 Combined Test Force almost since the beginning helping with the tests on the engineering side and the maintenance side. They give the developmental testing personnel an operational perspective. Personnel associated with developmental testing at Edwards are helping us with DIOT&E pilot training. Once DIOT&E starts, however, we will use our pilots, our maintainers, and our jets on our own out there on the ramp. By law, we can’t use contractor help during our evaluation unless it is specifically spelled out by Air Combat Command. Everything must be operationally representative.

Which F/A-22s are involved in DIOT&E?

McGettrick: We are using two developmental test jets, Raptors 08 and 09, and two operational test airplanes, Raptors 10 and 11. Raptor 07 is a spare for the four-ship phase. Ships 08 and 09 stay at Edwards at the end of the testing. Ships 10 and 11 go to Nellis.

Krumm: The jets have gone through dozens of modifications to ensure they are operationally representative of what the field will fly. They have some minor differences, but nothing that affects performance. For example, the F/A-22s here have some panel and switch placement differences.

Describe the DIOT&E test plan in terms of adversaries, test locations, and tactics.

Krumm: We used some assets from Edwards to fly chase early in the training. We bring in other units to fly as our adversaries as we progress. We use tankers from other locations as well as a lot of assets from Nellis. We will be flying on the Nellis ranges.

F/A-22 DIOT&E PilotsMcGettrick: We plan to use the Aggressor F-16s out of Nellis as our primary adversaries. They will augment their force with other units. We will protect B-2, F-117, and F-16 aircraft as part of our own strike packages. We may have AWACS, if available, and tankers. Other than the EA-6B Prowler, we don’t plan to use assets from other branches of the military or from other air forces.

Edwards has excellent airspace for developmental testing, but the base doesn’t have simulated threats or the hundred-plus miles of wide-open supersonic chaff and flare airspace that we really need to perform operational testing. We’ll use the same ranges Nellis uses for Red Flag exercises.

The testing involves a number of missions. We will fly against a variety of surface threats. At first, we’ll fly against a limited number of adversaries and then multiple adversaries. We’ll protect a B-2 and F-16s. We will defend an AWACS. We’ll attack high-value assets. We will conduct even more complex scenarios on the Air Combat Simulator in Marietta. The simulator reduces costs and provides more realistic threat scenarios. [See related article in this issue.]

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force has asked us to work the Global Strike concept of operations into the test. The concept shapes how the United States will fight future wars. That is, we kick down the door with stealth and other support assets. Once the door is down, we flow in legacy aircraft. We are going to practice that initial strike with the Raptors. We will take an F/A-22 with a B-2 and simulate going downtown in a hostile environment against a very high-threat laydown of both air-to-air and surface-to-air threats. We have to prove that we can take down the threats, hit the ground targets, and come back out.

How does this operational testing differ from operational testing of previous USAF fighters?

McGettrick: Our last operational test for a new fighter occurred about thirty years ago for the F-15 and F-16. Since then, the Air Force has learned a lot of lessons. The Eagle and Viper were evaluated in terms of effectiveness; that is, how fast does the airplane fly, how quickly can it turn, and how many bad guys can it kill. For the F/A-22, we are also evaluating suitability, which involves how effectively the airplane can be supported and maintained. We are determining how often an F/A-22 breaks and how many C-17s are needed to get an F/A-22 squadron to a war. We are grading suitability in these tests because suitability is just as important and it was designed into the airplane.

Operational testers were involved a lot earlier on this program as well. Furthermore, we are evaluating the aircraft at the mission level. Earlier programs did not make a concerted effort to fly complex missions with multiple aircraft and aircraft types and then multiply the complexity by an order of magnitude in a high-fidelity simulator. We are going to fight a theater war in the Air Combat Simulator. That is a big difference. On the maintenance side, we are collecting all of the maintenance data and rolling it into a computer model to figure out how many people and C-17s are needed to support the F/A-22. This constructive simulation, as it is called, can help us calculate life-cycle costs.

The F/A-22 characteristics make operational testing more complex. The Raptor is the first stealthy multirole fighter. No one has built or tested an airplane like this before. The F/A-22 is a combination of F-15 Eagle with its air-to-air capability, a Rivet Joint and an AWACS with their advanced avionics, an F-16 with its air-to-ground capability, and an F-117 with its stealth. We are testing many aspects new to any fighter.

F/A-22 How will DIOT&E testing affect the future of the F/A-22?

Krumm: A lot of the things we discover will form the foundation of F/A-22 employment. When we apply tactics developed by ACC to the Raptor, we can tell what works and what doesn’t work operationally. Our final report may go to the Secretary of Defense, but we will also write advice for future pilots. We will explain how to capitalize on stealth, supercruise, and integrated avionics. Our output becomes the building block for the initial units. It’s exciting to be a part of that process.

Every aircraft evolves over its lifespan. Today’s F-16, for example, is nothing like the original. It is much more capable. The Raptor will improve as it evolves. The airplane will get better as it incorporates new technologies. Pilots will fly it differently as it evolves, as it gets better software, weapons, and sensors. We are doing groundbreaking work, but operational testing doesn’t end here.

Reproduced with permission granted from CodeOne Magazine.


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