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 4467 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 five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • Your price point is wrong. Additionally, they do much more than drop SDBs (which is a marvel in it’s own right).

    • Consider that the F 22 was designed to be an air to air combat platform, they are using it in a way that it can be adapted to by successful in air to ground operations.

  1. WTF??!! A $200M plane to attack ISIS, when a WW2 P-47 could do the job as well? This is like driving tacks with a solid gold jack hammer. We should be retaining A-10s and upgrading their avionics and weapons capability. Our military just loves to to spend money. The F-22 was designed to counter Russia and China, not a bunch of guys with AK-47’s.

    • Totally! The “bright” side is that they are at least using them and not just parked doing zilch.

    • And how do you surmise the F-22 gets real-world operational/combat experience, start a war with Russia and China?

      This isn’t that hard to figure out: we own the F-22. It’s an integral part of maintaining air superiority. We’re also fighting an air-war against ISIS. Why not use the F-22 for some strikes, and take the pressure off the F/A-18s, and the F-16s while, at the same time, gain them incredibly valuable combat experience?

      Further, the F-22 isn’t just a fighter jet. It’s an networked battlefield sensor platform. That helps other, less sophisticated aircraft target areas on the ground networked-in from JTACs on the ground, or without them needing to utilize their own targeting systems. It’s also in-theater as a reminder to Russia that their entire air-contingent in Syria will be obliterated if they make a wrong move.

      Look, it’s clear you don’t understand much about the military, strategy, or the equipment it utilizes. And that’s fine, but forming staunch opinions on matters you don’t understand is rarely a good idea…

    • They have to show off the plane as combat capable or they will not get funded. Same with F-35, and other weapons systems.

    • How is an A-10 going to find a Daesh leader’s house, his friends and associates and drop a bomb right in the room in which they are meeting mid conversation, while intimidating the Russians and the Syrians at ye same time?

        • That’s the crucial difference you are not getting. The F22 IS a very significant ISR resource in the radio spectrum.

    • Pretty much exactly what I though reading the article – although I was thinking the Vietnam era Spad. Sheesh.

    • Agree. It makes me wonder if they are there to send a message to Russia since Russia is bombing ISIL and anti-Assad rebels. The USA doesn’t want Russia bombing the anti-Assad rebels, but just ISIL. It tells Russia that the USA has air dominance in the area. It can also enter Syrian air-space without detection.

    • Ummmm… who else is hanging out in that neighborhood? Russian planes, with that insecure nut job of a Russian leader itching to prove his power against us.

  2. Three comments (plus mine), and two of them are from whiny idiots who have absolutely no clue what they just read.

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