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  • Whistle Blown On F-22's Stealth
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 8:37 PM on Nov 12, 2009

    An employee fired by Lockheed Martin in 1999 has filed a whistle-blower suit claiming that the company had troubles with its F-22 Raptor stealth coatings and resorted to adding 100s of pounds of additional material to reach the U.S. Air Force’s signature standards. The suit asks for government reimbursement of $50 million for each of the 283 aircraft built.

    A stealth signature engineer, Darrol Olsen, claims the company falsely certified the effectiveness of coatings from Sept. 1995 to June 1999, says the Associated Press. The suit was filed in Calif. during 2007. It was transferred to federal court in Atlanta early this month.

    “During the early production lots, Lockheed Martin had difficulty with the coating and the robotic application system,” says a senior U.S. Air Force official who had insight into and involvement with the program during that period. He told Aviation Week that, “The robotics applied the coatings that weren’t adhering the way that was expected. And they had to refine the robotics to apply even coatings.”

    Part of the suit is a claim that the company added more than 600 pounds in extra layers of coatings to meet stealth minimums. The layers, according to the suit, were needed because the coatings rubbed off when exposed to various materials including water.

    “While I have never heard the 600-lb. number, I know it took them several lots to work out the process,” the Air Force official says. “But you can’t put 600 lb. in excess weight on an F-22 without dramatic effects on performance. That doesn’t ring true. Nor does adding even a foot of additional coatings fix a bad signature. There must be more to the story.”

    As to the F-22’s anti-radar capabilities, “I have not heard of any lot specific signature maintenance problems, and the signature is good,” the Air Force official says.

    Early requirements for the fighter were listed as -40dBsm in a rough doughnut shape laterally around the aircraft. Indications from industry and the military are that the signature has actually improved in some aspects over the initial design.

    “Heavy rain and sleet was an early problem with B-2 but I have not heard that issue raised in years,” the Air Force official says.

    Tags: ar99, F-22, stealth, whistle-blower

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