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'F-22 Raptor stealth coatings are crap' case goes to court

Pricey ultrafighter 'defective', alleges whistleblower

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But it's not what you're coated with that counts - it's the shape you're in

The suit goes further, saying that since Olsen ceased to be involved in Raptor development Lockheed has continued to conceal problems with the plane's stealth coatings "through at least October 2004 and likely to the present date". He adds that issues with the coatings being washed off by jet fuel or water meant they eventually had to be much thicker than the design called for, compromising the Raptor's aerodynamics and adding as much as 600 pounds of unexpected weight.

Problems with coatings have always been a feature of stealth capability, however. Previous stealth aircraft, such as the F-117 and B-2, are known to be horrifyingly expensive to maintain because of issues like this - not uncommonly needing major work on their exteriors after every flight. The Raptor is supposed to be easier to look after, but even so the existing fleet is likely to be clad by now in new coatings quite different from those of Olsen's time at Lockheed a decade ago.

Then, it's also widely acknowledged that shape is much more significant than materials in stealth design, so even if the Raptor is (or was) wrapped in suspect coatings this may not have had that much effect on its signatures.

Certainly the US air force have never expressed any concerns, and the superfighter has now been in service for some time. (That said, until lately the USAF was engaged in a massive battle against the Defense secretary and President Obama to get a bigger fleet of F-22s, so the service would have been unlikely to mention any snags.)

Given the massive amount of secrecy surrounding the pricey jet's technology, and the length of time that has passed since Olsen worked at Lockheed, he and his lawyers probably have a tough fight on their hands. For those interested, Olsen's full legal filing can be read below. ®

Update

Lockheed has now supplied us with a statement saying that the case was transferred to Georgia at the company's request, and that coporate lawyers haven't yet filed their response to Olsen's suit.

"Lockheed Martin does not believe there is any merit to the allegations and will vigorously defend this matter in court," adds the aerospace firm.

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