On September 22, 2014, the U.S. led airstrikes against Islamic State Forces in Syria dominated the media, and rightfully so. Five Arab nations joined in the assault, with four of them sending aircraft to join the U.S. The strikes were as symbolic as they were devastating to the terrorist militants, sending a clear message that they aren’t just being singled out by Americans, they are being eliminated by the world. But another momentous event happened that has been overlooked. During the airstrikes, the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor flew its first combat mission.
The F-22 is a stealth tactical fighter developed by the Air Force as its ultimate weapon in the air. In addition to its maneuverability, the Raptor’s weapons and detection capabilities make it the perfect weapon in air superiority. The Air Force had 187 commissioned between 2005 and 2011. Many pilots believe the F-22 is unmatched in air-to-air capabilities.
The F-22 fleet has been held back from combat operations, largely due to the small size of its fleet. The Pentagon originally planned on a major buy of the Lockheed Martin-built jets. But the high cost of the Raptor, combined with the constant campaigns against foes with limited air capabilities, and the general lack of any fighters that match the F-22, caused the DOD to abandon further production.
Air Force officials confirmed that the Raptor was used as part of the mission in Syria, along with F-15E, F-16, F/A-18 and B-1 bombers. The Air Force didn’t specify the number of each type aircraft used. The American aircraft were assisted by other aircraft from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Additionally, Tomahawk missiles were launched in support from the U.S. Navy warships the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) and the USS Philippine Sea (CG-51). The destroyer and cruiser were steaming in international waters in the Red Sea and the Northern Arabian Gulf.
The F-22 can carry up to six AIM-120 advanced, medium-range, air-to-air missiles, or two AIM-120s and two GBU-32 joint direct-attack munitions for air-to-ground strikes. It also carries an internal 20mm gun and two AIM-9 Sidewinders in internal weapon bays.
With Washington and world leaders claiming that Monday’s strikes were just the beginning of a sustained campaign against the Islamic State, the F-22 Raptor will likely get additional chances to prove its worth and its superiority.
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Military Connection: F-22s Finally See Action: By Debbie Gregory