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. It appears (from monitoring sortie launches) that many, if not all the F-22s in the exercise are flying with the Luneburg Lense. Guess you have to hold onto some of your secrets, and give the other guys a chance…. Perhaps once everyone is familiar with working together they will come off later in the exercise. Keeping in mind, the Rafales, Typhoons & Raptors are coordinating on the same force in this exercise (there may be the odd exception) vs F-15Es & T-38s.

    • Yes, really.

      I haven’t seen a pilot yet who didn’t like dropping/launching live ordnance.

      • i was speaking as the perspective as a former ground pounder. yes there is no substitute for live fire exercises but in the same moment and feeling we hate it. Simunitions offer pretty much all the same level of “authenticity” without having to bleed out when something goes wrong. Also as I read your comment in response to the other, it was as if we (the military) hopes for war when the truth couldn’t be any further apart.

        • Fair enough.

          Still, you have to experience live weapons at least once to know what to expect.
          Agreed, for you army types ;-) simulators/blanks/training rounds are pretty close to live ammo, for a fighter pilot, nothing comes close to firing the gun. Even if it is with TP ammo. Those little PB’s & LGTR’s are great for practicing your aim and such, but the feeling of a live/full size training munition being dropped/launched isn’t something to be left for actual combat.

          Oh, I agree, most of us who have served are the last people wanting to go to war.
          But, when it comes down to a fight, I’m sure you agree, it’s go in, get it done and go home.
          Politicians should be handed guns and told to go fight each other, first, before anyone else is sent in.
          I bet that’d put a stop to wars, PDQ.

  2. the french pilots have been very impressed by the stealth f-22 , the f-22 was above their expectation of stealth .

  3. American aircraft manufacturers did canard designed aircraft decades before the Rafale and Typhoon. Why are there none today? Because there are likely disadvantages to them. Design choices need to made based on on many variables.

    • Hello. What was the last Delta wings fighter in USAF? The F106? European aviation manufacturers decided to extent the development of the delta design on their new planes when American manufacturers didn’t. I don’t think the both are wrong, but by the way, “Canards” are the logical evolution on the delta design. French Dassault designers experimented at the end of the 70’s this concept of “canard” on Mirage III, as “Mirage III/5 NG” (NG for “Nouvelle Génération”, New or Next Generation). And previously, in 1968, they tested another system called “Moustache”, on the Dassault “Milan”, a prototype of a Mirage IIIC designed for the Swiss Air Force, based on a concept elaborated by the Swiss themselves at the FFA (“Fabrique Fédérale d’Aviation”). A retractable device implanted just behind the nose. This design was experimented later on Mirage 5/50 at the begining of the 80’s. Without further development. Israeli Aerospace Industries followed the same direction, with the IAI Kfir at the same time.

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