MARIETTA, Ga. -- Lockheed Martin Corp. is within days of the first test flight of the F-22 fighter, the U.S. Air Force's most important weapon under development, company spokesman Jeff Rhodes said yesterday.
The Air Force plans to spend about $43 billion for production of 339 F-22s during the next 20 years.
If the newest supersonic, radar-evading fighter flies this weekend as scheduled, it will mark the end of a series of glitches that delayed the first test flight from May.
Those problems included locking brakes, flight-software problems, an engine problem and a fuel leak.
"We hope to fly this weekend," Rhodes said. "We did the 60-knot taxi test today. We expect to do 90 knots tomorrow, and 120 on Friday."
One knot an hour is about 1.12 miles an hour, so, during the 60-knot test, the F-22 was moving on the ground at about 67.2 mph. With each test at Lockheed Martin facilities in Marietta, the plane's speed will increase until it approaches the speed needed for takeoff.
After the ground tests, if successful, Lockheed Martin personnel will spend about a day checking the plane before trying to fly Sunday.
There must be basically clear skies with visibility of at least five miles and winds perpendicular to the plane of five knots or less, for the F-22 to fly, Rhodes said.
Lockheed Martin assembles the F-22 in Marietta. Seattle-based Boeing Co. is the primary F-22 subcontractor.
Known as the Raptor, the F-22 is powered by two United Technologies Corp. engines that each produce roughly 35,000 pounds of thrust. Those engines allow the plane to fly at twice the speed of sound.
Each F-22 will carry eight air combat missiles inside its belly, rather than hanging from its wings as is now common. It will also be armed with a 20 millimeter cannon.
The Air Force has argued that the F-22 is necessary to keep it the world's most technologically advanced air force. Planes being developed by European nations and Russia are said to be generally on par with the F-15.
Many critics, including the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative agency, argue that the F-22 isn't needed at all, or not in the numbers projected by the Air Force.
Pub Date: 8/28/97