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NAS Jax Air Show To Feature New "Smart" Plane

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Peter Haden / WJCT
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There will be dozens of aircraft taking to the sky this weekend for the 2014 NAS Jax Air Show, but none more advanced - or more expensive - than the United States Air Force’s F-22 Raptor.

The stealth F-22 Raptor is the latest and greatest air-to-air fighter in the U.S. Military.

"The flight envelope for this airplane, the speeds that we can fly, the altitudes at which we can fly, the maneuverability that it has against other airplanes is pretty much incomparable," said USAF Capt. John Cummings.

Cummings is the only pilot who flies the F-22 Raptor at air shows, and does about 20 a year. The plane’s integrated avionics include several sensors and radars constantly gathering and processing information. It’s a smart plane.

"It does actually fly itself," said Cummings. "I actually only request things of the airplane. It’s got a completely digital flight control system. The way that works is, I’ll move the stick pedals and the throttles, and the jet figures out what best way to accomplish the things that I’m asking it."

The Navy Blue Angels fly F-18 Hornets - very nimble but not quite as technically advanced. The Blue Angels have dedicated aircraft for demonstrations and air shows. But with the F-22 Raptor’s sticker price of $335 million, there aren’t many just sitting around.

"We take a combat aircraft off the line," said Cummings. "This jet is totally unmodified. We don’t have dedicated airplanes. We, quite frankly, can’t afford to have airplanes dedicated to the demo just because we have so few Raptors that we’ll just borrow a combat ready aircraft for the weekend."

You can follow Peter Haden on Twitter @HadenMedia.