Tag Archives: F-22 Raptor

RAF Lakenheath Hosts Large-Force Dissimilar Air Combat Training with U.S. Air Force F-22, F-15C, F-15E and Navy F/A-18E/F jets

The 48th Fighter Wing hosts a big exercise, integrating joint service as well as 4th and 5th Generation capabilities.

One of the biggest military exercises the 48th Fighter Wing has ever hosted, began on Tuesday Oct. 9, 2018, at RAF Lakenheath, UK.

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing out of Langley Air Force Base, Virginia along with U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets assigned to Carrier Air Wing One and deployed from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, temporarily deployed to Suffolk to conduct large-force Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) exercises with the local-based F-15E Strike Eagles and F-15C Eagles.

“This was a perfect opportunity, as this type of exercise is rarely carried out in England or Europe and to bring everyone together to RAF Lakenheath is a tremendous achievement” said Lt. Col. William Wooten, 492nd Fighter Squadron Commander.

LN AF 91-0318 F15E Strike Eagle departs RWY06 on full burners.

The USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75), anchored in Stokes Bay in the Solent off Portsmouth harbour on Saturday, sent eight F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The carrier-based jets arrived at RAF Lakenheath on Thursday Oct. 4. Six F-22A Raptors, that supported Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria and Iraq arrived at  RAF Lakenheath on Oct. 5, on a brief re-deployment before returning home: they were due to fly back to the US but the 48th Fighter Wing contacted Langley AFB to request the Raptors take part in the joint exercise.

FF AF 09-0181 F-22A Raptor departs RWY06.

In the end, the 48FW was able to gather as many as 40 aircraft per sortie alongside KC-135R Stratotankers from the 100ARW at nearby RAF Mildenhall supporting the exercise above the North Sea.



The aim of the drills is to bring the U.S. Air Force and the Navy together to strengthen there air combat ability, especially in the current climate with Russia flexing its military muscles; the timing was good to put this in place as all components were in the region. So far it is showing to be a complete success.

The exercise will run for approximately two weeks, after which the F/A-18s will return to the USS Harry S Truman off the coast of Scotland and the F-22 Raptors will return back to Langley AFB.

Aircraft that flew during the Media Event we attended on Oct. 11, in order of departures:

Carrier Air Wing One

F/A-18F Super Hornet 166808 / 204 VFA-211 Checkmates

F/A-18E Super Hornet 166823 / 303 VFA-136 Knighthawks

F/A-18E Super Hornet 166840 / 412 VFA-81 Sunliners

F/A-18F Super Hornet 166665 / 210 VFA-211 Checkmates

F/A-18E Super Hornet 166840 / 412 VFA-81 Sunliners departs RAF Lakenheath.

493rd FS “Grim Reapers”

LN AF 84-010 F15C Eagle

LN AF 84-001 F15C Eagle

LN AF 86-0172 F15C Eagle

LN AF 86-0160 F15C Eagle

LN AF 84-001 F15C Eagle launching from RWY06.

27th Fighter Squadron

FF AF 09-0181 F-22A Raptor

FF AF 1st FW Boss Bird F-22A Raptor

FF AF 09-0181 F-22A Raptor lands at the end of its mission.

Strike Fighter Squadron 11

F/A-18F Super Hornet 166624 / 102 VFA-11 Red Rippers

F/A-18F Super Hornet 166631 / 106 VFA-11 Red Rippers

F/A-18F Super Hornet 166624 / 102 VFA-11 Red Rippers

492nd FS “Madhatters”

LN AF 91-0306 F15E Strike Eagle

LN AF 91-0315 F15E Strike Eagle

LN AF 91-0310 F15E Strike Eagle (This is a 494th FS Jet on loan to the 492nd)

LN AF 96-0202 F15E Strike Eagle

LN AF 91-0302 F15E Strike Eagle

LN AF 91-0318 F15E Strike Eagle

LN AF 91-0317 F15E Strike Eagle

LN AF 96-0205 F15E Strike Eagle

LN AF 91-315 F15E Strike Eagle 492nd Madhatters.

493rd Grim Reapers

LN AF 84-019 F15C Eagle

LN AF 86-0154 F15C Eagle

LN AF 86-0174 F15C Eagle

LN AF 86-0178 F15C Eagle

LN AF 86-0174 F15C Eagle taxis back with his air brake up.

27th Fighter Squadron

FF AF 94th FS F-22A Raptor

The Aviationist expresses gratitude to Capt. Elias J. Small and the entire 48FW Public Affairs team who were exceptional with their support during our visit at RAF Lakenheath.

All images credit: Stewart Jack

F-22 Raptor Demo Pilot Returns Home to Shred the Skies at the NAS Oceana Airshow

We met Major Paul “Loco” Lopez on home soil.

Naval Air Station Oceana (NAS Oceana) is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. This longevity shows just how important this Naval Master Jet Base is to the local community and the nation as a whole. NAS Oceana celebrates this continuing achievement each year by hosting an annual air show in late September. This year the air show was held from September 21-23.

As only one of two Naval Master Jet Bases (the other being NAS Lemoore supporting the Pacific Fleet), NAS Oceana is the home to seventeen strike fighter squadrons of F/A-18C/D Hornets and F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in support of East Coast operations. A Master Jet Base provides homeporting of aircraft carrier-based planes in relatively close proximity to carrier landing practice fields. In addition, NAS Oceana is home to many critical Naval Commands such as; Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, Strike Fighter Weapons School and many more.

A “Legacy” Hornet taxiing at NAS Oceana. (All photos: Author).

The Super Hornet remains for the time being the backbone of the Carrier Air Wing, but will soon share that position with the incoming F-35C Lightning II. Needless to say, the Master Jet Base is the epicenter of Naval Strike Fighter Aviation. The ramps and hangars are packed with Hornets under maintenance, returning from and preparing for deployments.

As much as premier Naval Aviators shredded the sky in their Super Hornets, the USAF also made an appearance with their premiere air dominance fighter, the F-22 Raptor. This year, the Raptor’s appearance was also a homecoming for pilot Major Paul “Loco” Lopez, a member of the F-22 Raptor Demo Team. We know pretty much everything about the aircraft flown by Major Lopez: the Raptor is capable of both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions and is considered “stealth” (or LO – low observable) which makes it near impossible for enemies to locate on radar. The thrust vectoring capabilities of the F-22 make for impressive maneuverability that seem to defy physics. While some have seen the Raptor firsthand in the skies over Syria, or protecting the U.S. Airspace off the coast of Alaska, the best place to see it firsthand is at an airshow. However, this time we wanted to focus a bit more on the man in the cockpit rather than the fighter itself.

Close up on the Raptor of the Demo Team.

Major Lopez grew up a mere five miles from NAS Oceana, and was brought up around the sounds and sights of fighter jets, rocketing through the sky. He later graduated from Salem High School, just minutes from the air station. On being back in his hometown, Major Lopez grew sentimental saying “It is very humbling, as well as overwhelming to be here right now.” In spite of being surrounded by the sounds of Tomcats and Hornets, Lopez chose a path with the Air Force. While specifics may be different, the heart and soul of a fighter pilot is one of a kind.



He is a very courageous, and considerate man – many young kids look up to him and there’s always someone stopping him for a chat. His favorite part of participating in air shows is high-fiving kids and seeing the smiles on their faces. “Our whole job is to recruit and retain, as well as inspire and build that passion for people to say ‘Wow!” Major Lopez loves encouraging kids to pursue their dreams, especially if that includes an interest in aviation. He also loves meeting up with fellow performers and connecting with the community at large.

Linda Silkwood, a resident of Virginia Beach is thoroughly supportive of our Nations fighter pilots be the Navy, Marines or Air Force. Linda was excited to see a Virginia Beach native return home, now flying the world’s most premiere jet. Regarding Major Lopez and other aviators, Linda believes in high achievement saying, “The bar is very high here for aviators, that’s what I love.”

A high bar also comes with high risks. Anyone who knows a member of the military also knows someone who died while serving his or her country. “Many make their living from government or service-related businesses,” Linda suggests. “Many here have also lost or know close friends who have lost someone.”

Major Paul “Loco” Lopez in front of his jet.

Major Lopez reflected on his life in Virginia Beach by stating “I remember being out here, as a little kid, coming out to this air show, as well as watching the Hornets and Tomcats flying over Oceana, the mall, and my neighborhood. I always wondered what it’d be like to be in the cockpit of a fighter jet, and here I am, living my dream, sharing this experience with others.”

Ok, if you are curious to see Maj. Lopez display at NAS Oceana, here it is:

NORAD Released A Photo Of A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Shadowing A Russian Tu-95MS Bear Bomber During Intercept Off Alaska

This time the Bear bombers were escorted by Su-35 jets.

On Sept. 11, at approximately 10 PM EDT, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor fighter jets “positively identified and intercepted two Russian Tu-95MS A“Bear-H” bombers west of Alaska.

Nothing special then, considered that a similar intercept had occurred on Sept. 1. However, this time the Russian bombers, flying in international airspace but inside the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) – a special zone, that can extend well beyond a country’s territory where aircraft without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft – were accompanied by two Russian Su-35 “Flanker” fighter jets.

F-22s are among the aircraft in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) scrambled by NORAD in support of Operation Noble Eagle, launched in the aftermath of 9/11 to prevent a recurrence of Sept. 11, 2001-style air attacks in U.S. and Canada.

This is not the first time some Flanker jets operate alongside the Russian bombers on their long range sorties. Indeed, this is what this Author wrote commenting the previous intercept earlier this month:

Such close encounters are quite frequent and may also involve fighters, as happened in 2017, when the Bears were escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets, and an A-50 AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft. Anyway, this is the second time that Russian Bears pay a visit to the Alaskan ADIZ: on May 12, 2018, two F-22s were launched to perform a VID and escort two Tu-95 on a similar mission in the Northern Pacific.

In fact, in May 2017, a “mini-package” of two Russian nuclear-capable Tu-95MS Bear bombers escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets and supported by an A-50 Mainstay flew inside the Alaskan ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone), and was intercepted by two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors some 50 NM to the south of Chariot, Alaska.

Here’s what we wrote back then:

The Su-35 is a 4++ generation aircraft characterized by supermaneuverability. Although it’s not stealth, it is equipped with a Irbis-E PESA (Passive Electronically-Scanned Array) and a long-range IRST – Infrared Search and Tracking – system capable, (according to Russian sources…) to detect stealth planes like the F-35 at a distance of over 90 kilometers.

[…]

In my opinion the “mini package” was launched as a consequence of the increased flight activity in Alaska related to the Northern Edge exercise, confirming that the Russians closely observe what happens in the Alaskan area.

This time, they wanted to showcase their ability to plan a complex long-range sortie as well as the Flanker’s readiness to escort its own HVA (high value asset), the Bear, during operations at strategic distance.

The composition of this package is also worth a comment.

The presence of the Mainstay should not be underestimated. It was flying well behind the Flanker and Bear aircraft with a specific purpose. As an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) platform the A-50 is believed to embed some ESM (Electronic Support Measures): in other words, it is able to detect far away targets as well as able to sniff radar, radio and data link emissions. Furthermore, Raptors in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) *usually* fly with external fuel tanks and Luneburg lenses: this means that they are (consciously) visible to radars. In such conditions, although it can’t “characterize” the clean F-22’s signature, the Mainstay can at least gather some data about the interceptors’ radar emissions (if any) and observe and study their tactics.

Therefore, as frequently happens on both sides since the Cold War, on May 3, the Russians most probably carried out another simulated long-range strike mission but with a precise ELINT (ELectronics INTelligence) objective: the Flankers and Bears were acting as a “decoy” package to test the American scramble tactics and reaction times, whereas the Mainstay, in a back position, tried to collect as much signals and data as possible about the US fighters launched to intercept them.

General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD Commander, commented the latest event in a public release as follows: “The homeland is no longer a sanctuary and the ability to deter and defeat threats to our citizens, vital infrastructure, and national institutions starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace. NORAD employs a layered defense network of radars, satellites, as well as fighters to identify aircraft and determine the appropriate response.”

Top image credit: U.S. Air Force

Two U.S. F-22 Raptor Jets Escorted Two Russian Tu-95MS Strategic Bombers Off Alaska

A routine close encounter between Russian bombers and American stealth interceptors in the Northern Pacific Ocean.

On Sept. 1, two Russian Tu-95MS strategic bombers involved in “scheduled flights over the waters of the Arctic Ocean, the Bering and Okhotsk seas” and supported by at least one Il-78 Midas tanker were, at some stages, accompanied by U.S. Air Force F-22 fighters, Russian Defense Ministry told to journalists on Friday according to TASS news agency.

The two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were scrambled from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska to intercept and visually identify the two Bear bombers flying off Alaska, south of the Aleutian Islands and inside the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

According to NORAD (that used a standard phrase to describe the episode), the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

The ADIZ, is a special zone, that can extend well beyond a country’s territory where aircraft without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.

Alaska ADIZ detail

Such close encounters are quite frequent and may also involve fighters, as happened in 2017, when the Bears were escorted by two Su-35S Flanker-E jets, and an A-50 AEW (Airborne Early Warning) aircraft. Anyway, this is the second time that Russian Bears pay a visit to the Alaskan ADIZ: on May 12, 2018, two F-22s were launched to perform a VID and escort two Tu-95 on a similar mission in the Northern Pacific.

It’s worth noticing that Raptors in peacetime QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) *usually* fly with external fuel tanks and Luneburg lenses/radar reflectors (clearly visible in the top image): this means that they are (consciously) visible to radars, exactly as any other QRA aircraft.

Top image: file photo an F-22 Raptor from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska takes off at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe)

Footage From Inside A Russian Tu-95 Bear Strategic Bomber As It Is Escorted by U.S. F-22 Raptors Off Alaska Last Week

The Russian Air Force has released a video that includes a short clip filmed from inside a Bear bomber escorted by two F-22 stealth aircraft.

On May 12, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).

ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.

Alaska ADIZ detail

According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.

Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported last year.

What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.

On May 12 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.

“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.

While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.