Significant new capabilities have been added to the US Air Force's latest superfighter, the F-22 "Raptor". The USAF's Raptors cost more than $300m each, and are generally thought to be the most advanced combat jets in service worldwide. However, until recently they were unable to cross the international date line owing to a software bug in their navigation systems.
A group of F-22s heading across the Pacific for exercises in Japan earlier this month suffered simultaneous total nav-console crashes as their longitude shifted from 180 degrees West to 180 East.
Luckily, the superjets were accompanied by tanker planes, whose navigation kit was somewhat less bleeding-edge and remained functional. The tanker drivers were able to guide the lost top-guns back to Hawaii and the exercises were postponed.
"Every time we fly this jet we learn something new," Raptor squadron commanding officer Lt-Col Wade Tolliver said.
But enemies of democracy who may have been planning an opportunistic attack on Hawaii followed by a retreat to safety across the date line shouldn't get their hopes up. The software bug has been rectified, and the Raptors have now successfully travelled to Kadena Air Base in Japan, where air-combat exercises are now well underway.
"This is history in the making," said Brigadier Punch Moulton, commanding the Kadena-based 18th Wing.
The deployment is expected to last more than three months. ®