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May 31, 2011—
Getting the most combat capability out of the F-22 is proving to be challenging. "The F-22 modernization program is a concern to us," Pentagon acquisition executive Ash Carter acknowledged earlier this month.

The issue deals with the aircraft's software as it relates to the Increment 3.2 upgrade. This enhancement package "is taking too long to implement," said David Van Buren, USAF's top acquisition official, at the same Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 19.

"We have software that is fully functioning, but does not have all the functionality we want," explained Carter. Van Buren said Air Force officials are working with F-22 prime contractor Lockheed Martin "to try to speed [Increment 3.2] up, make it more affordable, more economical, and get the capability into the warfighter hands sooner."

Still, getting even some Increment 3.2 functionality into the Raptor cockpit later this decade is slipping to the right.

The Air Force has split Increment 3.2 into three parts. Development of Increment 3.2A, the software-only initial component, is now scheduled for completion in Fiscal 2014, Lt. Gen. Herbert Carlisle told the SASC's airland panel May 24 in written testimony. Carlisle oversees operations, plans, and requirements issues on the Air Staff.

About this time last year, the service expected to complete Increment 3.2A development in Fiscal 2013.

Increment 3.2A is designed to provide "significant additional electronic protection, Link 16 improvements, and a better combat identification capability," according to Carlisle's statement.

Increment 3.2B and Increment 3.2C will: improve the F-22's capability to employ small diameter bombs; enhance the aircraft's targeting abilities using multi-ship geo-location; and add an automatic ground collision avoidance system and more electronic protection and combat ID. They will also give the F-22 the ability to employ the AIM-120D AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles.

Increment 3.2B is now projected to begin fielding in Fiscal 2017, states Carlisle's testimony. There is no target date given for fielding Increment 3.2C. In March 2010, the Air Force told Congress that it expected to begin fielding these enhancements in Fiscal 2016.

Increment 3.2 builds upon Increment 3.1, which the Air Force says it is fielding this year. This increment: upgrades the aircraft's APG-77 advanced electronically scanned array radar for synthetic aperture radar ground-mapping capability; gives the pilot the ability to self-target joint direct attack munitions using on-board sensors; and allows F-22s to carry and employ eight small diameter bombs.

The Air Force has ordered 187 F-22 production aircraft, but already two Raptors in the inventory have been lost in crashes.

When all F-22s are in the fleet, a total of 149 of them will receive Increment 3.1 and beyond. The remaining 36 F-22s will be configured for testing and training and will not get these upgrades, according to Carlisle's testimony.