All you need to know about U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor’s baptism of fire over Syria

In the night of Sept. 23, the U.S. and partner nations have launched a series of air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria. And, for the first time ever, the F-22 Raptor has had its baptism of fire.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were involved in the opening wave of the air campaign the U.S. and some partner nations launched in Syria against ISIS.

Even though the extent of their involvement was not disclosed, considered the scenario it is quite likely the Raptor stealth multi-role jets flew Swing Role missions: by exploiting their radar-evading capability, the F-22s probably flew high and fast to provide cover to the rest of the strike package during the ingress into the enemy airspace (in what is considered a typical OCA – Offensive Counter Air mission), then dropped their Precision Guided Munitions (PGMs) on designated targets, and escorted the package again during the egress and subsequent return to base.

Tasked for air-to-ground configuration, the F-22 can carry two 1,000-lb GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, along with AIM-120s AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles) radar-guided missiles and AIM-9 Sidewinder IR-guided missiles.

With software increment 3.1 or higher, the F-22 can also drop 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs, 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating, blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets, equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range. These bombs are particularly useful to improve accuracy and reduce collateral damage.

The aircraft involved in the raids that marked the baptism of fire of the Raptor fleet were probably the six F-22 Block 35 jets with the 1st Fighter Wing from Joint Base Langley–Eustis, Virginia, that, as we reported, deployed to Al Dhafra, in the UAE, in April 2014.

Indeed, the aircraft with the typical “FF” tail code were spotted in the images released by the DoD which showed some F-22s during mid-air refueling over the Persian Gulf in May. What we don’t know yet, is whether the initial detachment of six planes was joined by more planes due to the crisis.

Interestingly, in an interview given at the end of 2013, General Hawk Carlisle said 5th generation aircraft would provide forward target identification for strike missiles launched from a surface warship or submerged submarine, in the future. The PACAF commander described the ability of the F-22s, described as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich aircraft,” to provide forward targeting through their sensors for submarine based T-LAMS (cruise missiles). Although it’s quite unlikely that the U.S. Air Force has already implemented this capability, it’s not completely impossible that the aircraft were involved in a similar mission on Sept. 23, designating targets for T-LAMs launched by USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea.

 

About David Cenciotti 4453 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

16 Comments

  1. Did it fly with the Boeing EA-18G Growler? I heard that the F22 would not go into combat without such cover. Is this true?

  2. Yes, ISIS, with no jet fighters and only primitive air-to-ground defenses is just the sort of foe the F-22 and F-35 need. But unfortunately, the Soviets and Chinese have had decades to develop radar systems that see through stealth, mostly by operating in the VHF/UHF range. That’s a different story. Consider this short video:

    The Chain Home systems that the Brits used in 1942 operated at about 26 Mhz and, as he notes, could seen in every stealth aircraft in existence. You’ll also see a host of other videos on the same topic.

    Heck, when I was working with anti-SAM ECM at Eglin AFB in the late 1960s, GE set up an emulation of a Soviet VHF search radar that apparently could easily spot all our stealth aircraft. The only hitch is working out a way to use the less precise return from a search radar to put higher-frequency and more precise-pointing missile systems on to a target.

    I wonder if Russia or China are letting their top-of-the-line systems leave their borders. If I were them I wouldn’t. I’d wait and spring a surprise on us when we least like it.

    • Do you think they were testing Syrian air defenses? Not ISIS? If we knew what you stated in the late sixties, Imagine the “top-of-the-line” systems we have now. I doubt Lockheed did not account for the newer generation of radar systems developed by the Russians and indigenously copied by the Chinese. I think it is smart to test relatively new technology in a low intensity environment.

    • You do realize Syria does not want us in their territory, so they are probably using them against the Syrian Air Force if they try anything.

    • What countries say to the world and what they are truly capable are two very very different things. Countries especially Russia, have been using bullshit stories about their advanced weaponry to scare the enemy and boost troop morale for many many years. Until it’s seen first handed, then i don’t believe a single thing they say. Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true

    • That’s what the electronic warfare is for. Longer wavelengths might be better at detecting stealthy aircraft, but that comes with an inherent uncertainty in the position of the aircraft. this also makes it easier to spoof by an ECM aircraft operating a long way away.

    • Indeed, but I would assume that special ops have been in Syria for ages now and removed any *serious* threats. The political outcry if one of the F22s was shot down would be huge. What they need here is a clear hit to validate itself and the F35 programmes.

    • Every time you want to believe the fairy tale that the Chinese and Russians have developed radar that can see an F-22, you can come back to reality by simply asking yourself why the Russians and Chinese are scrambling a fast as they can to build their own “stealth” aircraft.

      You’re welcome.

  3. “With software increment 3.1 or higher…”

    Alas, version 2.9 was the highest anybody had, since somebody forgot the MSDN password and the password reset tool proved effectively worthless.

    “Praise be to Ballmer” insurgents were overheard chanting, as the F-22s flew home, landing just before all avionics popped up a modal dialog that could not be closed, reading “An Error Has Occurred.”

  4. “With software increment 3.1 or higher…”

    Alas, version 2.9 was the highest anybody had, since somebody forgot the MSDN password and the password reset tool proved effectively worthless.

    “Praise be to Ballmer” insurgents were overheard chanting, as the F-22s flew home, landing just before all avionics popped up a modal dialog that could not be closed, reading “An Error Has Occurred.”

  5. The video, if you use “pause”, also provides an excellent example of “roof knocking”. The first two hits were followed seconds later by two more hits that went straight down into the building through the holes made by the first two hits.

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