Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Former stealth pilot: Unmanned aircraft taking over more pilot roles

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE —

A former test pilot of America’s most advanced stealth fighter jet says unmanned aircraft will take over more and more roles pilots once did, but the era of humans in the cockpit hasn’t passed into history.

“You see ever increasing capabilities from the unmanned vehicle,” said Paul Metz, 70, a Springfield native. “I don’t think the day of the pilot in the airplane is over, but certainly there are tasks now that are being taken over by the unmanned vehicles that would previously be done by a human pilot.”

In “risky areas,” UAVs might be flown to avoid the loss of a pilot, added the former Air Force aviator who flew combat missions in Vietnam.

The Ohio State University and Northeastern High School graduate was Lockheed Martin’s chief test pilot flying the F-22 Raptor. Metz was set to talk about the stealth fighter jet’s history at a Dec. 1 lecture at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The Air Force’s latest generation fighter jets, the F-22 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are the only high-tech fighters in the U.S. fleet capable of surviving the most heavily defended enemy airspace ringed with advanced surface-to-air missiles, modern fighters and airborne early warning systems, Metz said.

“The reality is that we could find these weapons anywhere in the world facing us and they are so potent that the conventional fighters simply cannot penetrate into enemy airspace without suffering massive losses,” he said.

“I would offer for your consideration Syria,” he said. “The Russians moved in there very quickly and they can move in all of those high-tech weapons so we could face a formidable threat anywhere in the world today.”

Metz flew the Northrop-McDonnell Douglas YF-23A Black Widow II prototype in the Advanced Tactical Fighter competition and later flew an early test model of the F-22A. The YF-22 and YF-23, both prototypes, competed in a fly-off to land an Air Force fighter contract to replace the F-15 Eagle.

The Air Force said both jets met the competition’s requirements. The F-22 was chosen in 1991.

Metz declined to comment on which plane was best. “The answer is no one knows because no pilot was allowed to fly both of the prototypes, the YF-22 and the YF-23, so nobody ever made that comparison,” he said.

But, the pilot added, both advanced fighter jets had “superb” handling capabilities. “They feel right, they fly right, they’re very forgiving so both airplanes were marvels of the aeronautical art.”

Both the F-22 and the YF-23 are in the museum’s collection. The YF-23 is temporarily off public display until a new gallery hangar opens next June.

The Air Force initially targeted buying 750 of F-22s, but the Pentagon slashed the number to 187 and ended production of the fifth-generation fighter.

Stealth significantly reduces the ability to spot the jet on radar, observers say. The F-22 has a “super-cruise” mode and thrust-vectoring engines to maneuver at angles in flight conventional fighters can’t reach.

“The F-22’s key to success is not to do any of those maneuvers,” the test pilot said. “It remains hidden, by its low observable nature, and it simply shoots and destroys other airplanes and they never even see it.”

Source:  http://www.mydaytondailynews.com

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