An F-22 Raptor displays its weapons bays on 26 July 2014 during the Arctic Thunder Open House at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (Image © Staff Sgt. Jared Becker / USAF)

Raptor debut: strong message and operational test

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor has made its combat debut during air strikes over Syria against the forces of the so-called Islamic State (named ISIS or ISIL), according to news reports and a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday 23 September. The stealthy fighter was used next to Lockheed Martin F-16s, Boeing F/A-18 Hornets and Rockwell B-1B bombers. Also, the air forces of Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates joined in the raids, say sources.

>>> See our full overview of Air Assets deployed against ISIS here >>>

The F-22s very likely operate from the United Arab Emirates, that saw deployment of the type earlier. The operational debut in the skies over Syria may come as a surprise, as the F-22 was initially designed to be an air-superiority fighter. However, the use of the F-22 sends a strong message to Syrian president Assad to not use his still quite potent air force to interfere with operations. Syria has MiG-25 Foxbat and MiG-29 Fulcrum air-to-air capable fighters at its disposal, among others.

A Jordan F-16, bought from surplus Belgium inventory. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Amongst the aircraft involved in the 23 September 2014 airstrikes in Syria are reportedly also a number of Jordan F-16s like the one in this picture (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Russian radar
The debut – during which the F-22 according to the Pentagon “delivered GPS-guided munitions targeted at a command-and-control centre in a building” – also gives the US Air Force the chance the see how the Raptor handles the Russia-supplied radar installations in Syria. This information may come in handy in light of growing tensions elsewhere in the world. It is the most realistic test scenario imaginable.

The F-22 Raptor prototype first flew in 1990, followed by the first production aircraft in 1997. The type reached Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2005. The US originally set eyes on hundreds of F-22 Raptors, but finally settled for 187 aircraft, as the price tag of about 400 million USD per aircraft was deemed too steep.

The combat debut of the Raptor is reminiscent of the debut of the F-117A Nighthawk in 1989 in operation Just Cause over Panama. That debut also served one true purpose: here I am. Be aware.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editors Elmer van Hest and Marcel Burger

First ISIS/ISIL airstrike Syria, how it went down

(According to the US Pentagon, US Navy, released US DoD imagery and sources in the Persian Gulf countries, including the Bahraini government)
LATEST UPDATE 26 SEPTEMBER 2014

  • 01:30 UTC: 1st wave of attack by US Navy guided-missile cruiser CG-58 USS Philippine Sea and guided-missile destroyer DDG-51 USS Arleigh Burke, cruising in the northern Arabian Gulf, launch 47 Tomahawk cruise missiles against targets in eastern and northern Syria. Targets around Aleppo and Ar-Raqqah, mostly at Khorasan Group compounds
  • 02:00 UTC: 2nd wave of attack executed from several air bases (which ones were not disclosed) by US Air Force F-22s, F-15Es, F-16s, B-1Bs and drones against targets in Northern Syria. Some of the F-16s were equipped in a standard SEAD lay-out: sporting AGM-88 HARM missiles to kill any Syrian air defence radar that might be turned on, and AIM-120s plus AIM-9s to aim at any Syrian aircraft approaching
  • 05:00 UTC: 3rd wave of attack by F/A-18s that launched from the aircraft carrier CVN 77 USS George H.W. Bush in the northern Arabian Gulf (aka Persian Gulf), accompanied by one or more EA-6B Prowlers to suppress and counter Syrian radar guided defences in case they would be turned on, regionally based USAF F-16s and a big number of undisclosed aircraft from “coalition partners” (the Arabian countries) against targets in eastern Syria, including ISIS training camps and vehicles near Dayr az-Zawr. According to sources within the Middle East amongst the aircraft involved were at least 4 Royal Saudi Air Force Tornado IDS fighter-bombers and/or F-15S Strike Eagles, at least 4 United Arab Emirates F-16s and/or Mirage 2000s, at least 3 Royal Bahraini Air Force F-16C/Ds and some Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16AM/BMs.
A F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, and a F/A-18F Super Hornet, attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 213, prepare to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) to conduct strike missions against ISIL/ISIS targets. (Image © Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Burck/USN)
A F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31, prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) to conduct strike missions against ISIL/ISIS targets.
(Image © Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert Burck/USN)
An F-22 Raptor displays its weapons bays on 26 July 2014 during the Arctic Thunder Open House at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (Image © Staff Sgt. Jared Becker / USAF)
An F-22 Raptor displays its weapons bays on 26 July 2014 during the Arctic Thunder Open House at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska (Image © Staff Sgt. Jared Becker / USAF)