Stunning Photos Show the F-22 Raptor training with the Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale in the U.S.

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, British Royal Air Force Typhoon, and French air force Rafale fly in formation as part of a Trilateral Exercise held at Langley Air Force Base, Va., Dec. 7, 2015. The exercise simulates a highly-contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment where U.S. and partner pilots and ground crews can test their readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman)

NATO’s three most advanced combat planes flying together during exercise.

The photographs in this post were taken recently in the skies near Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

They show a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, a Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon and a French Air Force Dassault Rafale, flying together during the inaugural Trilateral anti-access/area denial exercise scheduled for Dec. 2 – 18.

Hosted by the 1st FW (Fighter Wing), the East Coast drills focus on integrated operations with the aim to gain an understanding of the required tactics, techniques, procedures as well as logistics and support associated with fighting in a highly-contested scenario made of layered long-range air defenses.

To make things even more realistic, the exercise does not only feature the NATO’s premiere combat aircraft but also a wide variety of supporting assets: along with the “Bad Guys” (U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles and the Langley-based T-38 Talons that always train against the Raptor stealth fighter) there are U.S. E-3 AWACS as well as U.S. and French Air Force tankers.

According to U.S. Air Force Col. Pete Fesler, the commander of the 1st FW: “The RAF and FrAF are our vital strategic partners and allies in the current fight against extremism, and will be in any foreseeable future conflict,” said Fesler. “The trilateral exercise gives us an opportunity to train together in realistic counter-air and strike scenarios. This training is critical to ensure that we have day-one interoperability for future contingency operations.”

Interestingly, whilst the USAF Raptor, the British Typhoon and the French Rafale multi-role combat planes train in the U.S. to gain air superiority in a modern A2/AD (anti-access/area denial environment), the same three kinds of aircraft are currently involved in a real war against ISIS in Syria and they daily operate well inside a Russian super-MEZ (Missile Engagement Zone) created with the deployment of the Moskva guided-missile cruiser (with its S-300F) off Latakia and the installation an S-400 Triumf battery at Hmeymim airbase: perhaps an interesting real-world scenario to test at least a few of those procedures studied in the permissive skies over Virginia.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. ” inaugural Trilateral anti-access/area denial exercise scheduled for Dec. 2 – 18.”

    No F-35? Wonder why considering it is the most capable A2/AD aircraft in the world. Exactly the mission it was designed for. Why weren’t a few sent over from with the USMC or USAF to participate? Some good training and data could have been obtained. After all – Red Flag has already shown the F-35’s advanced (and superior) capabilities in A-G. Time to start showcasing the Lightning II’s exceptional performance to the public and allies!

    • Damn dude, you literally sound like a Lockheed sales person.

      Also maybe it’s not there because it’s not in service yet.

      • Who says it has to be IOC with the USAF to participate in an exercise? After all – AF F-35s are participating in Red Flag! Yes – it could partake.

        • No they’re not.

          Currently THERE ARE two F-35s at Nellis AFB assigned to the 422nd Test and Eval Sqd which is part of the USAF Warfare Center. They are currently developing T&Ps for the F-35.

          When they do participate in Red Flag, it’ll be all over the interwebs for aviation enthusiasts to read and the haters to pick apart and complain.

        • Umm…the USAF.

          NO F-35 has ‘participated’ in a Red Flag.

          You really don’t know what the purpose the ‘Flag exercises are for do you?

    • The best in the world? You serious? Not even your flagship F-22s? I knew you were a fanboy but not that much…

    • I think you mean Green Flag. F-35s (Though there are two at Nellis AFB) have not participated in Red Flag yet. They did how ever have a its sensor test bed aircraft tested at Northern Edge in 2011 and the results were surprising.

        • most recently the F-35 did partake in a large force exercise called “Checkered Flag”. This is not to be confused with Red Flag that is more known for its multi-national participation.

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