Tag Archives: Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

All you need to know about the latest Red Flag, world’s most realistic aerial exercise

Red Flag 2015-2 featured previously unannounced participants and in a first – virtual participants.

In addition to the variety of USAF squadrons, the air combat exercise held Mar. 2 to 13, 2015 out of Nellis AFB, Las Vegas, NV featured international participation by a NATO E-3, F-16s from the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF), Mirage 2000s from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), T-38s from Randolph AFB, and F-16CMs from Aviano Air Base, Italy. A listing of the scheduled participating units is found in the Air Force release “Nellis AFB Hosts Red Flag 15-2

Beyond what was seen, multiple off site participants were involved virtually in the exercise.

F-16 takeoff SW

Lt. Col Stodick explained that most virtual participants were housed in simulators out of Kirtland AFB, NM and included a complete JSTARs crew sending virtual ground target information that aircrews responded too.

A number of other unidentified units participated virtually, and while the “physical” exercise took place over the 15,000 square mile Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR), the virtual component added a much broader dimension to the exercise covering a simulated 1,320,000 square miles.

This combination of Red Flag and Virtual Flag was a first, and is described as the USAFs LVC (Live-Virtual-Constructive) training. The Live and Virtual not only reduces the cost of the exercise it increases the participation, scope and complexity. It is quite an extraordinary training dynamic that utilizes state of the art networking and communication assets to provide the most comprehensive air warfare experience on the planet. More details are captured in an Air Force article “LVC Integration takes Red Flag to the Next Level

B-1 takeoff RF15-2

Each Red Flag has its own flavor, and in this case it was of interest to note that no F-22s were involved, and three US Army Patriot batteries were deployed on the range as part of the Blue Force, with more units deployed “virtually.”

Red Air continues to evolve, with Red Flag 2015-1 featuring F-15E Strike Eagles on Red Air strike missions, and 2015-2 featuring T-38s flying Red Air missions, as well as select missions flown by the B1-B and EA-6B on Red Air. It is anticipated that a Red Air will continue to be supplemented with various active units moving forward. These units will not be required to learn “Red Air” tactics as such (primarily limited to those Red Air assets in the Air to Air role), but will be given familiar mission profiles to complete within the context of representing Red Air.

EA6B Prowler taxi

For those who have enjoyed the F-15Cs with their colorful Aggressor paint, this will likely be the final Red Flag that the F-15C is utilized in the Red Air Aggressor role (many of which had carried over to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS) after the 65th AGRS was disbanded in 2014).

F-16 AGRS takeoff

The action is certainly not limited to air-to-air and air-to-ground combat units. Rescue personnel participated in the missions with the Guardian Angel, HH-60G, and HC-130 out of Moody AFB, GA. Major Goodale 38th Rescue Squadron described what is typically seen as a rescue role to encompass a much broader mission set of “Prepare, Locate, Support, Recover and Reintegrate US and Coalition personnel.” No doubt flight crews fly with great confidence knowing and experiencing the capability set these specialists bring to the fight. Maintenance personnel are challenged to overcome unique obstacles such as, working with limited spares, adapting to critical equipment that is deemed inoperable or limited access to the aircraft given the base comes under “simulated attack.” The crews must think on the fly to adapt, overcome and achieve their mission.

Tactics continue to evolve, and participants must be calculated and wary about their approach to unfolding situations. A solo F-16C Aggressor was recently “captured” fast and low on the “Blue side” of the range, and it was noted that the aircraft was trying to lure Blue Air into a pursuit to lead them subsequently into a Red Air ambush. Not simply a scripted exercise, innovative, dynamic activity challenges reactions and creates tremendous learning experiences in a safe environment.

Each day hosts a unique scenario, perhaps a response to an international Superpower that seizes a small neighboring nation, defending an attack, addressing a hostage situation, or localized regional conflict initiated by a rogue nation. In any case, the exercises represent the reality of the world that confronts us today.

One of the Red Flag days I visited the NTTR where I witnessed activity that appeared to mimic real world deployments taking place today. Blue Air F-16s in numbers attacked from the east and engaged Red Air over the southern portion of the range. With Red Air controllers calling intercept vectors, B-1Bs flew through contested air on strike missions above 20,000 ft. Missile shots, kill calls, and intercept vectors were continuous. Aircraft had to break away for air to air refueling by one of the orbiting KC-135s, or to regenerate and re-enter the fight. Meanwhile in the north two pairs of UAE Mirage 2000s circled over northwestern ranges in a pattern that appeared to be combat air patrol (CAP). Supported by the UAE Mirage 2000s and just a little further to the north, two B-52Hs from Minot AFB flew racetrack pattern, periodically breaking away for what were likely weapons runs on targets on the northwestern ranges. While the B-52s dropped no live ordnance during Red Flag, they were configured to carry everything from conventional, to smart and stand-off weapons tailored to their specific mission profiles. 90 – 120 minutes of intense action came to an end quietly as aircraft with missions complete returned to Nellis AFB.

B-1 takeoff roll RF15-2

Exercises such as Red Flag bear a close resemblance to the way modern conflicts are addressed, as coalitions involving integration of a broad number of specialized and international assets. In such cases Red Flag training is critical to prepare for such real world deployments.

The objective of Red Flag has been to provide participants with 10 “combat mission” experiences before entering combat, and as such greatly increase the performance and survivability of participants. This approach has demonstrated tremendous success in ensuring US and coalition forces are the best trained, most prepared military forces on the planet.

Special Thanks MSgt USAF David Miller 99th ABW Public Affairs and the entire 99th ABW PA Team.

Todd Miller lives in MD, US where he is an Executive at a Sustainable Cement Technology Company in the USA. When not working, Todd is an avid photographer of military aircraft and content contributor.

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[Photo] F-22 Raptor zooming through the clouds during demo training

An F-22 Raptor during an annual demo training at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

The annual Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course is an annual four-day training event for civilian and military pilots who are given the opportunity to practice flying in formation together for the upcoming air show season.

Held at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, since 2001, the course is attended by pilots of historic aircraft, like the P-51 Mustang, the P-40 Warhawk, the P-38 Lightning, the P-47 Thunderbolt and the F-86 Sabre, as well as fighter jocks with their F-16 Fighting Falcon or F-22 Raptor.

Specific training is required to perform formation flying, even more so when several aircraft types with much different performance are involved.

On top of this article you can see an interesting photograph of a Raptor cutting through the clouds during a demo training flight.

Here below you can see the aircaft flying in formation over Davis-Monthan AFB on Feb. 26.

Heritage flight

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

U.S. F-22 EW-enabled sensor-rich stealth aircraft have escorted Jordanian F-16s during air strikes on ISIS

U.S. F-22s and F-16CJs are being tasked with Jordanian F-16 escort missions in Syria.

Last week the Pentagon provided some details about the American support to the Jordanian air strikes in Syria that followed the burning alive of the pilot Maaz al-Kassasbeh captured on Dec. 24 after he ejected from a Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16.

RJAF pilot

Image credit: Jordan Armed Forces

According to Air Force Times, U.S. Central Command CAOC (Combined Air Operations Center) tasked the F-22 Raptors and the F-16CJs, along with an unspecified unmanned aircraft that provided intelligence gathering and surveillance, to escort the Jordanian aircraft launched against Islamic State positions.

F-16CJ

Moreover, the American stealth jets are now embedded in the “standard strike package,” which includes U.S. and coalition aircraft, committed to attack ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said.

The news put the spotlight on the Raptor again and is a sign the U.S. stealth jets are still directly involved in the anti-IS campaign in Syria and Iraq: little was known about their contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve besides the details which were released following their participation to the opening stages of the war  and focusing on those first missions.

What’s more interesting is to try to guess the role played by the Raptors in the air strikes and the value of their escort, considered that even though the F-22 is the best air superiority fighter in the world, it will hardly find any aerial opponent to shoot down.

Whereas SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) and EW (Electronic Warfare) platforms, like the F-16CJ/CGs, the EA-6B Prowlers and the EA-18G Growlers, are likely taking care of the residual air defenses surrounding the most dangerous targets, the F-22 Raptors are probably used to provide the so-called “forward target identification”: the Raptor stealth fighters can use their ability to enter, mostly undetected a target aerea, gather details about the enemy systems with their extremely advanced onboard sensors (including an Active Electronically Scanned Array – AESA radar), share the picture and enemy information with other tactical assets, command and control planes and AWACS, then escort other unstealthy planes or drones towards the targets.

Actually, they can also attack their own targets with JDAMs if needed: F-22s can carry two 1,000-lb GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions or 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs, 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating, blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets, along with AIM-120s AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) radar-guided missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder IR-guided missiles, a configuration that makes the Raptor

However, in modern scenarios as well as in Syria and Iraq, the 5th generation aircraft is more an “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich aircraft”, than a pure interceptor with swing role capabilities.

 

 

Rare insight into F-22 Raptor vs T-38 Talon aerial combat training at Langley

This is how F-22 fighter pilots train to improve their air-to-air skills.

The venerable T-38 Talon which first flew in 1959 (production ceased in 1972) has found new life as an adversary aircraft used to hone the skills of Raptor pilots. The aircraft, pulled from storage at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and refurbished with current systems (including jamming pods such as the AN/ALQ-188) have been deployed in support squadrons at Holloman AFB, Tyndall AFB and Langley AFB (Joint Base Langley–Eustis).

The T-38s provide an excellent simulation of a number of non-stealthy adversaries that Raptors could come into contact with from countries around the globe. Beyond their value as adversaries, the Talon’s cost per flight hour is reported as $18,000 less than the Raptor and they preserve precious flight hours on the F-22s.

Small, relatively fast, and painted black the Talons are difficult to put eyes on, though primary training would imply detection and “shoot down” BVR (Beyond Visual Range).

The T-38s are typically flown by Raptor pilots who are the most qualified to challenge the Raptor, and exploit any and all perceived air-to-air vulnerabilities. Imagine a widely dispersed flight of T-38s moving fast at 50 ft off the water attempting to penetrate an area under Raptor CAP (Combat Air Patrol). The final result most certainly makes Raptor pilots extremely familiar and confident in their aircraft and its capabilities as they push both sides of an engagement thoroughly.

T-38 Langley

A typical day at Langley features the launching of groups of Raptors (1st Fighter Wing) and Talon adversaries (27th Fighter Squadron) morning and afternoon on two hour sorties for Tactical Intercepts and Offensive/Defensive Counter-Air training.

The training realized in these daily encounters ensure mission ready, mission capable pilots are available for deployment to any number of global hotspots. Perhaps most significantly this training provides an unparalleled level of confidence for Raptor pilots, for it is one thing to believe you are invisible, and another to know you are. It is this kind of confidence that leads to engagements like that of the F-22 Raptors sliding up undetected and unexpected on IRIAF (Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force) F-4 Phantom jets that were attempting to intercept a U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran.

Leaving no doubt, Raptors with Talons are more dangerous than Raptors alone.

Special thanks to the PAO of Joint Base Langley–Eustis.

Todd Miller lives in MD, US where he is an Executive at a Sustainable Cement Technology Company in the USA. When not working, Todd is an avid photographer of military aircraft and content contributor.

 

U.S. Air Force deploys F-22 stealth jets to Japan as a deterrence to North Korea and as a show of force to China

American F-22 stealth aircraft have been deployed to Japan for a deterrence and security exercise in the region.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth multi-role aircraft from 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, deployed to Kadena Air Base, in Japan, to take part in exercise Keen Sword, underway from Nov. 8 through Nov. 19.

The deployment has a dual purpose: let U.S. aircrews fly and train with local Japan Air Self Defense Forces, and show the presence of Washington’s most advanced fighter plane in service in a region where tensions have risen over maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

Held biennially since 1986, Exercise Keen Sword includes anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, air-to-air and air defense warfare scenarios. This year, the drills involve about 11,000 personnel from U.S. Forces Japan, 5th Air Force, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, U.S. Army Japan, and III Marine Expeditionary Force. Among the Air Force units taking part in the exercise there are also 33rd Rescue Squadron from Kadena and 212th Rescue Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, that are training with their Japanese colleagues at Komatsu Air Base.

According to the Air Force, F-22s, that have had their combat first against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, have recently been active in training exercises in the region, “serving as a deterrence to North Korea and as a show of force to China.”

Earlier this year Raptors operated out of Osan Air Base, South Korea as part of large-scale exercise Foal Eagle.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force