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Seriously awesome!

February 18, 2011
This is no joke! This plane hauls it! (click for larger view)

A couple of years ago I was able to attend the air show at Nellis Air Force Base in North Las Vegas. I stood just behind the fence, no more than 150 yards from the center of the runway, as an F-22 flew an amazing demonstration. In fact, in the picture above, I was standing about 200 yards to the left of the left edge of the frame, maybe less. We were there two days, so the second day, I made sure I positioned myself just about where I thought the plane would rotate into its climb.

The photo above is significantly better than any I could have taken, for two reasons: first, the photographer was located in a restricted area, somewhere on the other side of the runway, where civilians couldn’t go. This put him with the sun to his back.

Second, he probably has WAY better equipment than I did. My camera was pretty good – I goot some pretty good zoomed images – but  no long lens like this.

This photo shows the plane halfway through the rotation into the vertical climb that is the first part of the demo. Yes, that’s right, a vertical climb. This plane was only about a hundred feet above the runway when it rotated. The rotation was extremely tight because the plane uses vectored thrust, which gives superior handling. It’s also mostly composites, which makes it light for its size. The turns it made in the demo had maybe half the radius or less than that of an F-16. (And we could compare them, because there was a solo F-16 demo earlier in the day, and the USAF Thunderbirds later in the finale of the show. This plane would smoke anything else in the sky in manueverability.)

So as the pilot pulled the nose up – maybe not so much as vectored the engine thrust up, pushing the tail down – the plane really did seem to stand on its tail. It was an amazing sight. I’ve heard that when other countries join our pilots for exercises like Red Flag, we don’t take the F-22s out any more; it’s just too much of a turkey shoot.

Yeah. And we stopped building them. We don’t need them, of course. It’s not like, oh, the Chinese, or somebody, might be building a plane that could compete with it in the air. Sheesh. Dang short-sighted congresscritters.

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