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.
F-22 during Deliberate Strike Night: testing stealth abilities to conduct attacks during the hours after the sun sets.
These cool photographs were taken by a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 509th Weapons Squadron, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, as it performed aerial refueling on an F-22 Raptor stealth jet assigned to the 433rd Weapons Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
This is what the top image, taken by The Aviationist’s contributor Alessandro Fucito at RAF Lakenheath at the beginning of May, seems to suggest. Indeed, the photograph shows one of the 12x F-22s belonging to the 95th FS from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, deployed to the UK until May 8, with 15 barely visible bomb markings (and another square sign – even though the latter may be some sort of patch on the Radar Absorbing Material coating).
The bomb silhouettes (on the airframe serialled AF05-086) represent GBU-32 1,000-lb JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), one of the two types of bombs the 5th generation aircraft is able to carry: indeed, for air-to-surface missions, the multirole stealth jet can carry either 2x GBU-32s or 8x GBU-39 small diameter bombs in the internal weapons bay.
Bomb and kill markings are very well-known tradition in military aviation. In Syria, Russian Su-34s sported red star silhouettes to mark 10 air strikes, whilst EA-18G Growlers of VAQ-137 aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt got unique kill markings, showing Electronic Attack support as well as cellular jamming missions.
The Tyndall’s Raptor depicted in the photo has most probably been given the traditional bomb markings after taking part in the air war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria during a rotation last year.
Since the beginning of the air campaign, the F-22 have accounted for only 2% of the sorties and 2% of the overall weapons released (that is why it is safe to assume every silhouette represents one JDAM): their role is indeed to use the advanced onboard sensors, as the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, to gather valuable details about the enemy targets and then share the “picture” with attack planes, command and control assets, as well as Airborne Early Warning aircraft.
This mission has been given a fancy name: “kinetic situational awareness.”
A four-ship formation consisting of a U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle from the 494th Fighter Squadron, an F-15 Eagle from the 493rd Fighter Squadron, an F-22A from the 95th Fighter Squadron, and a Royal Air Force Typhoon flew together during a training sortie on Apr. 26.
12 Raptors from the 95th FS are deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and will be conducting air training exercises with other U.S. and Royal Air Force aircraft over the next several weeks.
Interestingly, as noted by Interfax, the aircraft deployed more or less as an RC-135W from RAF Mildenhall carried out a routine (intelligence gathering) mission over the Baltic Sea using radio callsign “Abilo 71”.