Most of the images you can find online showing a F-22 stealth fighter firing a missile either depict a Raptor prototype or the air-to-air missile is an AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile).
That’s why the image on top is interesting: shot in 2009, it shows a F-22 Raptor 4007 launching an AIM-9L Sidewinder missile during a test at Edwards AFB, California.
The photo shows also the open side bay door housing the canted trapeze that the F-22 Raptors use to put the AIM-9 Sidewinder seeker into the airstream: indeed, stealth jets rely on weapons bay to carry bombs and missiles and preserve low-observability.
Although the missile in the picture is an AIM-9L, in the future, U.S. Air Force Raptors should be able to carry the AIM-9X Block II which features the Lock On After Launch capability meaning that the bay doors remain open just the time it is needed to eject the missile into the airstream.
The image below shows an F-22 launching an AIM-9M missile.
Top image credit: Darin Russell via Lockheed Martin; below U.S. Navy.
The present and future of the F-35, A-10 and other platforms in the vision of the U.S. Air Force Air Command Command Chief.
In an interesting, open and somehow surprising interview given to Air Force Times, Chief of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command Gen. Michael Hostage, explained the hard choices made by the Air Force as a consequence of the budget cuts and highlighted the position of the service for what concerns the F-35.
First of all, forget any chance the A-10 will survive. According to Hostage, one of the few ways to save some money cut from the budget is to retire an entire weapon system. And, even though the Warthog “can still get the job done”, the plane does not seem to be the weapon of choice in future conflicts, in which “the A-10 is totally useless“.
Obviously, a less drastic solution, as keeping half of the A-10 fleet in active service, is not viable as it would still require much of the costly support infrastructures the whole fleet need.
Another problem is in the ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance) domain. Politics urge the Air Force to keep buying Global Hawks, hence, given the current budget picture, the Air Force can’t afford both the U-2 Dragon Lady and the Global Hawk. That’s why the ACC Commander “will likely have to give up the U-2″ and spend much money to try to get the large Northrop Grumman drone do the same things the U-2 has done for decades.
Dealing with the Joint Strike Fighter, Hostage says he is “going to fight to the death to protect the F-35″ since the only way to keep up with the adversaries, which “are building fleets that will overmatch our legacy fleet”, is by employing a sufficient fleet of 1,763 (“not one less”) F-35s. You can update and upgrade the F-15 and F-16 fleets, but they would still become obsolete in the next decade.
But, the F-22 Raptor will have to support the F-35. And here comes another problem. When the Raptor was produced it was flying “with computers that were already so out of date you would not find them in a kid’s game console in somebody’s home gaming system.” Still, the U.S. Air Force was forced to use the stealth fighter plane as it was, because that was the way the spec was written. But now, the F-22 must be upgraded through a costly service life extension plan and modernisation program because, “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.
The U.S. Air Force has announced it is about to deploy “approximately 12 F-22 Raptors and about 300 personnel from Langley Air Force Base, Va.” to Kadena airbase, in Japan.
The deployment is expected in the next few days and its purpose is demonstrate Washington’s commitment to stability and security in the Asia-Pacific Region.
The aircraft will operate with the Kadena’s resident 18th Wing, which hosts the largest combat wing in the U.S. Air Force composed by F-15s, E-3s AWACS, KC-135s and HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters.
The USAF has been rotating fighters to Pacific Command bases since March 2004, “in order to maintain a prudent deterrent against threats to regional security and stability,” according to the statement on the Air Force’s website.
However, public appearances will not include flyovers. The U.S. Air Force performed 1,000 flyovers each year but, following the spending review which cut some upgrade programs as well, it will not fly any flyover next year but some high-visibility ones by the Thunderbirds.
Six F-22 Raptor aircraft belonging to the 3rd Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson have arrived at Lajes field, in the Azores on Sept. 27.
The aircraft were deploying to an undisclosed location in the Middle East: considered the almost permanent presence of the stealth fighter jets at Al Dhafra, it is quite likely the Raptors photographed by André Inácio were on their way to the large U.S. base in the United Arab Emirates.
Few days ago, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said that an F-22 Raptor flying an HVAAE (High Value Air Asset Escort) over the Persian Gulf flew under two Iranian F-4 to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing, called them and said ‘you really ought to go home’ because they were pursuing an MQ-1 Predator.