UPDATE 11 September | The muscle to show Russia the United States means business has arrived. The meanest, leanest, winged US military asset has landed on Spangdahlem Airbase in Western Germany early in the evening of 28 August 2015. It marked the first deployment for the Raptor Pack as Rapid Reaction Force in Europe. Airheadsfly.com caught them on the spot.
UPDATE The Raptors headed home again on 11 September, arriving at RAF Mildenhall on their way back
Four Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors flew from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, across the Atlantic to give a clear signal that Washington is committed to the protection of its European NATO allies, although four birds don’t make a summer. Sixty airmen accompany the temporary deployment that was supported by a Boeing C-17A Globemaster III strategic airlifter with some necessary support equipment. The supporting tanker aircraft headed for Mildenhall airbase in the UK.
A remark at the Pentagon last week pointed to the Raptors being deployed to Europe. Their exact destination and arrival remained unknown – or better; untold – until just one day prior to their actual arrival at Spangdahlem.
The F-22 is the world’s most advanced fighter jet currently in operational service. Costing more than 150 million dollar a piece, the US Air Force received the last of 187 ordered Raptors in 2012. The aircraft has three internal weapon bays, making it hard to detect by enemy radar as long as it keeps the weapon bays shut. The main bay can accommodate six launchers for beyond-visual-range missiles and two side bays for short-range missiles.
Four launchers can be replace with racks for up to 1,000 lb (450kg) bombs or Joint Direct Attack Munition and Small-Diamater Bombs, a secondary attack option that the Raptors first fielded in a real war situation over Syria in 2014.
However, for this Rapid Reaction kind of deployment to Germany, military radars – including Russian ones if within range – must have been able to track the F-22s all the way like they were flying X-Mas Trees. The landing birds of prey were carrying external fuel tanks that likely mess up their stealthy features completely – apart from looking aesthetically weird. But the extra wing tanks do make long-distance flights much more comfortable, when range and as few in-flight refuelling moments as possible are something to consider too.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): Final approach for this Tyndall F-22 Raptor at Spangdahlem Airbase in Germany. (Image © Elmer van Hest)