"The analogy with the F-16XL is very good," says Al Piccirillo, the first U.S. Air Force program manager for the Advanced Tactical Fighter, which became the F-22.
The F-16XL ultimately lost out to a bomber version of the F-15 and never went into production, but many military and industry experts think it was one of the best warplanes that the U.S. Air Force
never bought.Could the FB-22 be the phoenix that rises on the ashes of that abandoned project?Piccirillo
, for one, thinks it's conceivable.
How might the FB-22 be used in action?Its ability to fly high and fast, combined with its radar-detection and bombing capabilities, would enable it to work in concert with other planes to accomplish dangerous missions.In one scenario developed by Lockheed Martin
, a fleet of F-35 fighters and B-2 bombers are headed for their targets-say, a munitions factory-but they must traverse a belt of surface-to-air missile sites to get there.Though the F-35 and
B-2 are both stealthy-designed to evade detection-they can be identified by some of the largest and most powerful radars.The strategy, then, is to send ahead a few FB-22s to take out the enemy's anti-aircraft missiles, clearing the path for the other planes.