The most up-to-date F-22 Raptor jets are currently fighting Daesh

The Raptors of the latest Block can drop GBU-39 small diameter bombs on ISIS targets.

The Raptors deployed to Al Dhafra airbase, UAE, are the most up-to-date F-22As flown by the U.S. Air Force.

Assigned to the 90th Fighter Squadron from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the modernized Raptors made their debut in Operation Inherent Resolve, the air war on the Islamic State, in April, bringing expanded capabilities in the fight against Daesh.

“What our squadron is bringing to the fight now versus some of the previous squadrons, is we have the most up to date software and hardware loads that an F-22 can carry,” said Lt. Col. David, 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander in a recent Air Force release. “There is a huge advancement in the capabilities of the avionics, the radar system, the sensors and certain electronic features on board the aircraft.”

Although they are rarely requested to attack ground targets, the Alaskan Raptors can now drop 8 GBU-39 small diameter bombs while previously they were limited to carry two 1,000-lb GBU-32 JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) in the internal weapon bay: with the latest upgrade they can be tasked for missions which require greater precision.

An initial air-to-surface capability, including that of dropping the GBU-39 (a 250-lb multipurpose, insensitive, penetrating, blast-fragmentation warhead for stationary targets equipped with deployable wings for extended standoff range, whose integration testing started in 2007) had been introduced with the software increment 3.1 back in 2012.

Even though the odds of using an advanced air-to-air missiles over Syria are pretty low, another important addition to the F-22’s payload is the latest generation AIM-9X (already integrated in most of US combat planes since 2003): on Mar. 1, 2016 the 90th Fighter Squadron (FS) officially became the first combat-operational Raptor unit to equip an F-22 with the AIM-9X Sidewinder.

Noteworthy, the AIM-9X will not be coupled to a Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) as the F-22 is not equipped with such kind of helmet that provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery (the project to implement it was axed following 2013 budget cuts) but the Raptor will probably benefit of the AIM-9X Block II, that is expected to feature a Lock-on After Launch capability with a datalink, for Helmetless High Off-Boresight (HHOBS): the air-to-air missile will be launched first and then directed to its target afterwards even though it is behind the launching aircraft.

Interestingly, along with the ability to carry “new” weapons, the aircraft were also given a radar upgrade that enhanced the F-22 capabilities in the realm of air interdiction and the so-called “kinetic situational awareness”: as we have often explained in previous articles, the role that the Raptor plays in the campaign is to use advanced onboard sensors, such as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to gather valuable details about the enemy targets, then share the “picture” with attack planes as the F-15E Strike Eagles.


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. Let us not forget that one of designers of F-16 and some other US military experts confirm the fact which most of blinded readers try to avoid the truth as devil cross, which is that there is no such thing as “stealth” or “invisibility” as every long wave radar such as British during WW2. One of such prime long range radar is used in UK for monitoring civilian aircrafts traffic over Atlantic. In mid of 1990′ when USA produced F117 first stealth night bomber it was proclaimed to be absolutely invisible to the radar especially Russians as according to USA Intelligence Russia only pretended to have radars but in reality they have had soldiers with powerful binoculars watching the sky instead. Then it happened USA announced that F-117 will come to visit UK and that aircraft was scheduled to visit Farnborough International Airshow. That was so hash-hash that US AF said that it will have only fly by and then land in American military base. It was so secretive that well over hundred thousand people gathered to see it and actually it was flying so high that nothing was visible wit “Russian radar binoculars” until it was very next day published in UK media that Heathrow control tower monitoring Atlantic traffic with primary long range radar was following and guiding F-117 to Farnborough Airshow. USA Embassy pressed on UK government to suppress media not to disclose that information. Later on during the NATO illegal and criminal war against Yugoslavia, Serbian air defence shot down two F-117 and after that USAF did not any more fly over Serbia with F-117.

    USA are seriously pathetic in their blind belief that they are masters of Universe and that they can do whatever they imagine. Well they imagined lot with so many latest “state of the Art technology” but delivered next to nothing. They spent nearly 2 trillion US$ to discover, design and develop new 4th generation jet fighters F-22 and F-35 and everyone else (Russia, China, Japan) have already developed 5th generation of jet fighters. Even poor and backwater India will with Russian help develop 5th generation fighter jets.

    No one in America realised that Russia developed new 5th gen. aircraft for around 5 billion US$ which is only about 400x less than USA 5th gen fighter jet and what is more interesting is that despite such low budget it works perfectly fine. No wonder USA wants to engage Germany, UK and Sweden in developing together a new 6th generation of fighter jets after they will study PAK FA jets. Russian 6th generation is already in designing process and according to their information it will be hybrid jet with AI and remote control as drone, which means no crew no expensive equipment for pilots survival and appropriate environment. Jets wont need to be airtight, they will be able to go with much higher wing load than nowadays 9g, no need for expensive ejection seats, no need for building protective cockpit and so on. Russia already developed a prototype of new engine for 6th generation which will be combination RAM and SCRAM engine which will push jet to the middle of hypersonic speed somewhere around Mach 7.

      Iranian ground radar tracked and gave directions to Iranian F4s to intercept U.S. MQ-1 drone flying in international airspace off Iran, but Iran didn’t know about the drone’s F22 escort.

      “By international law, the notion of a country’s sovereign airspace corresponds with the maritime definition of territorial waters as being 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) out from a nation’s coastline.”

      Iran has 1L13 “Nebo” VHF radar, Kolchuga (VHF, UHF and SHF), Matla-ul-fajr (VHF), Gamma Radar (low frequency band), Vostok radar (VHF) and other radars, and it didn’t detect F22 threat.

      • Exactly, people ignore this.Unless the fighter is overhead, these are not going to detect it, and that then is for a very short period, you quickly can get of range, then course corrections to missiles is immaterial.

    • The problem with long wave radar’s is the envelope, you use this for more short range detection, the problem is the ability of the radar losses capability the further out it is reading returns. This is why they made the F35 with the ability to fly at about 1.4 mach for about 150 miles without keeping the afterburners lit, the F22 with super-cruise can drop bombs as it is coming into detection range, then quickly leave the site.

Comments are closed.