The modernization of this incomparable aerial monster was carried out due to fatigue deterioration in the turbine blades.
Unraveling the complexity of upgrading the F-22 Raptor
The modernization of this incomparable aerial monster was carried out due to fatigue deterioration in the turbine blades. Although it was the cause of seven Class A incidents and caused nearly $23 million in damage, this mishap did not disrupt Raptor operations, as Breaking Defense indicates.
The problem according to expert Brian Brackens of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the problem was identified as a “low-cycle fatigue defect in the 2nd stage low-pressure turbine blades,” which emerged in the engine’s vital components and demanded an urgent intervention.
Julie Ireland, helmsman for the Pratt F119 engine program, provided a more detailed look at the approach to fixing the problem. She highlighted how preventative measures taken in collaboration with the USAF and P&W made it possible to effectively address the issue and ensure that F-22s were equipped with inspected and up-to-date blades.
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Despite the fruitful cooperation between the parties, there seems to be a discrepancy regarding the project’s completion date. While Pratt’s spokesperson says the retrofit was completed early in December 2022, Brackens says the project reached its completion point in May 2023.
It is important to note that Pratt had previously set priorities for retrofitting of certain engines due to environmental considerations identified in 2017. However, the specific details of these circumstances were not openly expressed, according to an Inside Defense report. The adaptation operation had its official start in 2019.
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According to a spokesman for the Air Combat Command, all the Raptor engines in the Air Force fleet, including those of the Block 20 jets, have undergone a fundamental renovation, including even those planes whose withdrawal could be hampered by lawmakers.
The problem with the turbine blades, classified as a Class A mishap by the Pentagon, was first detected in 2012. Although all seven mishaps were caused by failure of the same component, the root cause ranged from the first incident in 2012, and another occurred in 2015. Fortunately, the newly adapted hardware has fixed all previous failures.
The cost of this adaptation process carried out both in the field and during scheduled visits to the warehouses, was approximately $21 million, as reported by Brackens. He assured that this problem did not affect flight operations and no injuries were reported as a result of the mishaps.
The symbiosis between Pratt & Whitney and the Air Force
Chris Johnson, Pratt’s vice president of fighter and mobility programs, took remarkable pride in the proactive approach of the Pratt & Whitney F119 team. He applauded his effective collaboration with the US Air Force in resolving the low-pressure turbine blade incident.
“The diligent and proactive management demonstrated throughout the process exemplifies the commitment to upholding the standards of safety, reliability and top-of-the-line readiness that the F119 5th Generation engine brings to the US Air Force,” Johnson stated.
In addition, he praised the extraordinary teamwork demonstrated at all stages of the process. “Throughout the three-year modernization program, the availability of the F119 engines remained above the levels set by the USAF,” he added.
The F-22 Raptor: The Majesty of Innovation in the Sky
The Raptor, a fifth-generation fighter that leads alongside the F-35, has been praised for its engine’s ability to propel the plane to supersonic speeds without afterburning, an ability known as supercruise. According to an Air Force report, there are currently 183 Raptors in inventory.
The Raptor’s replacement with the Next Generation Air Dominance sixth-generation fighter is expected to occur next year. This renewed aerial leviathan is undoubtedly ready to continue dominating the sky with its improved mechanical musculature.
The revamp of the F-22 Raptor is a technical odyssey that highlights the importance of keeping these aviation mastodons up to date to ensure their supremacy in the modern air arena.
The refurbishment was carried out due to a significant failure identified in the turbine blades. This fatigue deterioration, known as a “2nd stage low-pressure turbine blade low-cycle fatigue defect,” had caused seven Class A incidents and caused nearly $23 million in damage.
The solution was implemented through a series of preventative measures taken in collaboration with the USAF and P&W. These allowed the problem to be effectively addressed and ensured that the F-22s were equipped with inspected and updated turbine blades.
The refurbishment of the F-22 Raptor engines officially began in 2019. However, there is a discrepancy on the completion date of the project. While Pratt states that the retrofit was completed in December 2022, Brian Brackens notes that the project was completed in May 2023.
The renovation process, carried out on the ground and during scheduled warehouse visits, cost approximately $21 million.
The F119 engine is vital to the F-22 Raptor, providing the ability to reach supersonic speeds without afterburning, also known as supercruise. In addition, the 5th generation F119 engine brings to the US Air Force top-of-the-line standards of safety, reliability and readiness. During the modernization program, the availability of the F119 engines remained above the levels established by the USAF.