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.


  1. I really like the F22 and believe it should be upgraded in all aspects. Starting with the engines.
    For instance: Look at the size specifications between the F22 and F35 engines. Nearly the same. By swapping out the engines you will improve overall performance. The planes structure will most likely need to be reinforced. Hopefully the RADAR absorbing will stay stuck to the plane.
    Then by adding new electronic/avionics capabilities which are in the F35. This would improve over all surgical strike capabilities as well as air to air fighting.
    This is of course if the USA does build a newer generation of F22.

    • LOL.. John MacKechnie, do you only comment to the National Interest? BTW the National Interest deleted my comments and banned me from posting comments after I called their article BS propaganda and I used the term BS I did not use any profane words. So much for that “Free Speech” bull crap. So I had to find this comment to reply back to you, but yes you are right, it is more Oligarchical with fascist overtones. Just FYI I post comments all the time in Russia media, Sputnik, RT, TASS, Russian Insider, etc, etc, blasting Putin, blasting Russia, blasting the Russian Duma and I have NEVER had my comments deleted much less been banned from commenting. Shame.. Shame.. Shame… Shame. Be careful John Mackechnie, the American Dark Age is coming.

  2. Only Obama loyalists call it “ISIL.” Everyone else calls it by its true name, ISIS.

    • This comment… I hope you’re trolling, or else you’d be too ignorant to use this website.

  3. $300,000,000 plane to drop a $1000,000 bomb on a $10 tent. Just reward for the US tax payer

  4. Clearly you have no idea how money works. This ‘money’ is spent on American jobs, and the operational hours only improve our capabilities. Send in more, put Americans back to work doing real work and keeping our citizens safe at home.

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