The two Lockheed Martin F-22s arrived at Ämari airbase in the morning and flew back to Spangdahlem in Germany later in the day. On Monday, two Raptors paid a similar quick visit to Łask airbase in Poland.
The advanced stealth fighters arrived in Germany on 28 August, flying directly from their homebase in Tyndall, Florida. They are expected to leave Europe again mid-September. In other US military movements, eight US Air National Guard F-16s are due to arrive on Friday in Poland for exercises.
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.
Again a goodbye to the legendary McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet that has rocked many of the world’s air spaces since the 1970s. This time the farewell is at Tyndall AFB in Florida USA, where the final QF-4 aerial target took off on 27 May 2015 – after the type has served for 20 years at the base.
The rather sad faith of these particular Phantom version was sealed about 30 minutes ago, when the two QF-4s that took off remotely-controlled by people at the ground station were destroyed in mid-air by fighter jocks flying other aircraft.
Tyndall’s QF-4 program initially started in 1997 and the destruction of the last two QF-4s marks its replacement with the QF-16 Falcon. Like the QF-4, the QF-16 is a full-scale aerial target that can be flown manned or unmanned. Unlike the QF-4, the QF-16 has all the capabilities of a newer generation aircraft.
“We get much more maneuverability out of it, and essentially we have a fully capable F-16 Falcon,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Garrison, 82nd ATRS director of operations. “It can pull 9 G’s, go supersonic and climb up to 55,000 ft. just like the front line fighters. We now have that as a target.”
With the delivery of the first production QF-16 to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the US Air Force has started to build a fleet of new aerial targets to replace its old QF-4s. The QF-16 is the first of production Lot 1 of 13 aircraft, and arrived at Tyndall earlier in March.
Its the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron that will use the remotely piloted QF-16 as flying targets for weapons exercises over the Gulf of Florida. The squadron is part of the 53rd Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base.
The F-16 in question is an F-16C that served with the Michigan Air National Guard before. It went into storage at AMARG in Arizona in 2010 and was since modified to be able to fly without a pilot. Initially, Boeing modified six F-16s to QF-16s for test purposes, with the first remotely controlled flight happening on 19 September 2013.
White Sands Missile Range
In August 2014, test missiles were fired at a QF-16 over White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico; the aircraft was of course remotely flown. For a pilotless flight, the engine is actually started with a pilot in the cockpit. When all systems are up and running, the pilots gets out and control over the aircraft is handed over to the remote pilot.
In the end, it is expected that over the next decade, well over 200 F-16s will be modified to fly as aerial targets. Most will eventually end up at the bottom of the sea after being shot to pieces high in the sky, similar to the many QF-4s before them.
The first Lockheed Martin QF-16 aerial target made its first unmanned flight, thanks to a joint effort of Boeing and the US Air Force.
Two USAF test pilots in a ground control station remotely flew the QF-16, which is a retired F-16 jet modified to be an aerial target. The QF-16 mission profile included automatic take-off, a series of simulated maneuvers, supersonic flight, and an auto land, all without a pilot in the cockpit. It looks weird – just see the video below.
,,It was a little different to see a F-16 take off without anyone in it, but it was a great flight all the way around,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Inman, the commander of the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron.
The milestone flight initiates more operational evaluations, including a live fire test at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. The Navy, Army and Air Force will ultimately use QF-16s for weapons testing and other training.
Boeing has modified six F-16s into the QF-16 configuration. Low-rate initial production is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter, with first production deliveries in 2015. For decades the US aerial targets were dominated by the McDonnell Douglas QF-4 Phantom II, an aircraft from the Vietnam War era.