F-22s in the UAE May Just Be There for an Exercise, Really

This is interesting,

David Cenciotti tapped the aircraft spotter universe and realized that the F-22s that are in the Middle East are, based on their tail numbers Block 30 F-22s; meaning the birds aren’t equipped with the gear to perform air to ground attacks. If true, it punches a hole in the theory that the planes would be used to help kick in Iran’s front door. Yes, the jets could still be used to escort long range B-2 stealth bombers, but it really does look like the Raptors and F-15Cs are in the Gulf region to do some joint air-to-air combat exercises (that,conveniently, also give Iran a reminder of our military capabilities) not as part of a potential strike force.

From The Aviationist:

The six F-22 Raptors currently at Al Dhafra, UAE, belong to the 49th Fighter Wing, based at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. They flew as “Mazda 91″ to Moron, Spain, on Apr. 17 and departed again for their final destination on Apr. 20.

Since they spent some 4 days in Spain, during their stay, the stealthy planes were photographed by several local spotters that were able to provide the exact list of all the examples involved in the deployment:

#04-4078, #04-4081, #05-4093, #05-4094, #05-4098, #05-4099.

If they were not willing to let the world know of such deployment they would not make a stopover in Spain, during daylight.

They are all Block 3.0 (or Block 30) examples meaning that neither of them has received  the latest upgrade (Block 3.1) that has brought the capability to find and engage ground targets using the Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping and eight GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) to the troubled stealthy fighter.

  • Kski

    It maybe training but its more for those Iranian goof balls to keep their mouths shut.

  • andy

    why can we build more of F22, We spend BILLIONS in FOREIGN AIDS ….F35 are more expensive than F22..

    • Jeff

      The highest estimate for the full rate production F35 is $135M, just like how the final production price for the F22 was $195M… those higher priced F-35s that are coming in at ~$200M are part of an LRIP contract, meaning they’re still effectively prototypes, but built with as much production tooling and components as possible. For comparison, F-22s built at the same point in that program as LRIP were ~$450M a piece and those were the numbers used to kill it.

      • Nenad

        Let’s check performance/cost ratio: yes the F-22 is more expensive but it can supercruise, much faster mach 2,5 top speed compared to F-35’s mach 1,6, more stealthy, longer range, trust vectoring, etc. Simply it’s far better in air to air combat and can carry equal amount of air to ground weapons as F-35. And don’t forget that enemy aircraft such as Sukhoi are also mach 2 capable, and stuff like stealth and Aesa radars are no longer US monopoly. Future enemy might have PAK-FA or J-20 which are both superior in air to air combat compared to F-35. So more F-22 is far better choice.

        • blight_

          The other possibility is that the F-22 may serve as a stepstone aircraft to the next generation of fighter aircraft, hopefully when procurement becomes less of a circus…someday.

        • Pilgrimman

          >PAK-FA or J-20
          >superior in air to air combat compared to F-35

          Oh dear sweet Jesus, my sides!

          • Andy

            j-20 is a copy….junk

        • Kool Guy

          The PAK-FA maybe, but J-20 we really dont know much beside seeing its pixs. Who knows if its really stealthy like what the Chinese claimed. Remember the F-117 that got shot down? Its stealth, n got shot down decades ago.

          • joe

            Agreed. We don’t really know enough about the J-20 to guess at this point, but (assuming it’s part of the whole ‘anti-access’ strategy, an anti-ship missile truck seems both more likely and easier to build). The PAK-FA, on the other hand…whilst Russian weapons have often been lower tech in terms of computers, avionics, and (historically) build quality, russian design bureaus have always had damn good design engineers and have a history of making planes that go round corners at least as well, if not better, than their western counterparts.

          • R_S_M

            Come on!
            “Stealth” doesn’t mean invisible - dont believe the hype, its not a video game. It simply means its *less* detectable to radar, not the human eye.

            The F117 which was shot down over Serbia was flying the same route day-in, day-out, operating long range radar and opened his bomb bay doors. Sloppy piloting killed that Nighthawk, not poor design…
            ….though yes you are right “if only it was invisible!”

        • keth

          wow are any of you actually in the air force?

          • Kim_Jong_Ill

            do we need to be?

      • HAT1701D

        Incorrect at this point. The F-22 is averaging about 145 million for the last ones to be delivered to the Air Force. The F-35 with cost overuns and delays is now estimated to be in the 160 million dollar range…and they can’t even get the helmet working right yet.

    • jhm

      The US spends the least percentage of its GDP on foreign aid compared to any other developed country….

      • Kim_Jong_Ill

        I hear North Korea spends more now….

  • andy

    the jets could still be used to escort long range B-2 stealth bombers, but it really does look like the Raptors and F-15Cs are in the Gulf region to do some joint air-to-air combat exercises (that,conveniently, also give Iran a reminder of our military capabilities) not as part of a potential strike force.


  • stephen russell

    show of Force maybe & training??

  • Lance

    Not surprised everyone on the last post thought a F-22 alone could beat Iran there crazy. Anyway more showing off our new toy.

    • Richard

      1 F-22 could entirely wipe out any and all Iranian Air to Air defenses if they had enough ammo. A squadron of them and it would be over.

      • tiger

        You wish…….

  • Pat

    The only reason I was excited for them to be deployed there was so that they could scare Iran…Damn..

  • bradyboy23

    “If they were not willing to let the world know of such deployment they would not make a stopover in Spain, during daylight.”

    And how do we know there was not another deployment that they were not willing to let world know about, a larger Block 3.1 one during night with a stopover away from eyes?

  • http://twitter.com/E_L_P @E_L_P

    You might want to re-evaluate your understanding of what a Block 30 can and can’t do. Stating it can’t do air-to-ground missions is not accurate (in any increment level).

    • blight_


      “The Increment 3.1 upgrade allows a pilot manually to designate two ground targets at a time using two weapons each, according to Lockheed, enabling an F-22 to hit four separate targets with its eight weapons. By contrast, the USAF’s previous Increment 2 configuration enabled each aircraft to strike two fixed targets using its two 454kg Joint Direct Attack Munition satellite-corrected, inertially guided bombs.”

      • EJ257

        So the increment 2 config basically can do everything a F117 can and support air-to-air. No wonder they retired the F117.

        • blight_

          Well, F-117 was an interesting project that no longer had a serious need…though I guess if we’d still had them, we could’ve used those instead of UAVs for bombing missions in Pakistan, or turned them into ELINT platforms for penetration into Iran?

  • Tim

    Ugh… That’s EXACTLY what they said and we’ll stick to that, heh?

    They are just there to exercise… Yeah! That’s the ticket…

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonathan.waldo Jonathan Waldo

    Any chance they are there to counter resistance (Syrian or otherwise) to a potential no-fly zone over Syria?

    • Ara

      Syria is too far away from the UAE, Israel can help on that issue

      • Sgt_Buffy

        I’m not so sure I trust Israel anymore, but hey, who needs trust when you have control?
        It’s all so messed up there. Israel is supposed to be the good guys, but I’m not so sure anymore….

        • blight_

          Maybe we should switch to more accurate terms. Israel has their own game, but they’re not actively plotting to attack us. “Good” or “bad” has no role in it.

          • buddy

            Sending the F22’s to Israel… I wonder how many days it would take them to copy and co-opt the tech on that plane….. Remember the LAVI…. the F16 clone that almost made it to any one who was willing to pay… ie. appartheid S.A., Taiwan etc. etc…

        • Ara

          They maybe ******** about Iran(Which I kinda agree with them) but they’re still friends, I hope so! we need a powerful country on our side there.

          • Ara

            I did not know red &# neck is a bad word!
            is that really?

    • buddy

      That would make basing at Incirlik much more logical. Much closer to theater, also as far as Syria is concerned the Turkish govt would be willing to cooperate. Unlike back in 2003…..

  • blight_

    I think they’d like to test F-22 deployments with older machines before sending newer block machines?

    That or the 3.1’s are still shaking down back home, and will be replaced by newer machines later on.

  • Jezza67

    Interesting name for the flight “Mazda 91”. In the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda was the God of Light and Wisdom who destroyed Angra Mainyu, the Evil Spirit.


    • Ara

      Not only that, This year in Iranian calendar is 1391

      sooo: Mazda 91?! I’m hoping the next step is Iran

      • blight_

        The Iranian media will cast it as adopting pagan Zoroastrian monikers to attack Islam.

    • tiger

      And maybe the flight lead just likes his RX7 a lot….

    • Sgt_Buffy

      Coincidence? I think not.

  • Bob

    Not sure I understand the huge need of having an F-35 program if the F-22 can do air to ground missions.

    • Benjamin

      The F-35 is more of a bomber aircraft then they like to admit. The F-22 can only carry limited types of ground attack ordinance. The Navy really needed an aircraft that could replace the A-6 Intruder which is already out of service

  • Ara

    Awww maaaaan! I was preparing myself!

  • anthony

    If all our countries stopped all aid, to needed countries wed have no option but build more jets to stop wars from the countries getting aid..Something to think about..

  • Tribulationtime

    F-22 is a good plane but only 6…., in other hand, a lot of us service men are abroad and TRAINING it´s 80% of military live, included pre-plan sceneries, conflicts, colect inteligence, at last Iran its doing shows of force Why not US. Moreover my son the inforgivable attack is only matter of time. Who in this blog in really pissed off with Iran and why?

  • Rohan

    JUST BE THERE !!!!!

  • FtD

    As a nation I feel more secure if the air force has 1000 f22 than 2000 f35

  • boswell

    Two questions:
    1) Are we sure there aren’t more than six raptors deployed there; and
    2) How difficult is it to upgrade a block 30 raptor to block 31 without telling anyone?

  • Mark

    To further my point about the relative cheapness of the F/A-22 over the F-35 for the airforce alone at $116 million a copy for production runs of 100 is cheaper and better than an F-35 - maybe. The other part to look at is cost of operations. The F-22 is around $40,000 to $49,000 per hour. I do not know what that cost will be for the F-35. However the cost of the F-15 is somewhere over $30,000 per hour.

  • bubba birner

    I think that if we were to build more F-22’s we could use them as some sort of home defense. Let the F-35’s screw up over there once and guess what. Washington will realize that maybe building a plane that’s not better than what we already have probably wasn’t a good idea

    • blight_

      Home defense against what? Besides, committing your best forces to the home defense mission simply handicaps the sharp end overseas.

    • tiger

      Dream on….. The days interceptor alerts & Nike missles is history.

  • FtD

    How I see USAF can operate in virtually single air frame and rid of F35 altogether. Have a fleet of 500 full stealth F22 and 1500 non stealth F22. Stealth version can perform initial phase of destroying enemy air asset and SEAD missions whilst non stealth planes can do CAP, HAVCAP, interdiction, CAS. Missions that F35 designed to do plus more. Non stealth F22 will be cheaper to produce and to maintain, has superior performance to F15 and can to be converted to full stealth version if needed.

    • Richard

      Ummmm, so you want 500 F-22’s that are painted, and 1500 that aren’t painted? Because the paint is the only thing that I could see that could make a difference in your scenario. The design of the airframe is stealthy.

      • Rod

        well at least 1500 of them won’t need garage parking

        • blight_

          True, but then how much of the manufacturing cost goes to the coating? Or worse, if you have to change the skin of the material because it isn’t coated, that introduces additional costs of their own.

      • Brian

        or… f22’s and f15’s….

      • FtD

        but keeping up the paint job is one of most time consuming maintenance. so without it, you’ll have a very powerful gen4.5+ fighter that’ll cost similar to F15E to buy and to service.

  • oli

    The f22 could also be there to compliment other planes in a fight as well as test the Iranian air defense for weakness and to see if it has any weakness. Its a rehearsal to test its strategy and also gauge Iranian air defense systems before an attack. The sanctions not only weaken Iran in case of an attack but can create the conditions for the Iranian regime to be overthrown or capitulate. Very smart move by the administration not to attack right away. Don’t know if it was by accident or dictated by current situation in the middle east or Korea

  • Chops

    I wonder if the F22s have penetrated Iranian airspace to test their radar capabilities?

    • blight_

      If they recognized RQ-170, then…

  • Ron

    F-22 or F15c v.s. whatever Iran has is not good for Iran. Iran does not have a Modern AWAC. The U.S. AWAC will ID the Iran’s fighter long before Iran’s fighters get a lock any US aircraft. As far as why we have F-15c and F-22 training across from Iran would be to set what Iran capabilities are. The US will be able to see that Iran’s response time is when the F-15 are in the air to when the F-22 are in the air. Iran will have some show of force with US air craft flying off the coast.

    • Richard

      Shitting yourself is not a show of force

    • passingby

      I guess international law means nothing to you? A born hooligan, aren’t ya?

  • Kool Guy

    I wonder why did they completely chose a new model, F35 to work on as the JSF, but why not just simply work on to expand and upgrade the F22 and turn it into the JSF since the beginning. Maybe an F22 navy version, and a USMC version. That would of been more slick.

  • Kool Guy

    Also, I wonder whats the super special and secret recipe in the F22 that the government has to ban it from export, even to some of our closest allies, such as members of NATO or Japan.

    • Brian

      Extraterrestrail technology ;-)

    • passingby

      At the core of the fear is this: the F-22 can be easily defeated or rendered useless once its numerous weaknesses become known to the enemy. And the US does not trust any of its allies, including France, Germany and Japan. (Japan is more like a US satellite than an ally.)

      the best secret of the F-22 is its high-thrust engine, assuming it’s not yet been leaked. The so-called stealth has been over-hyped.

      • Kool Guy

        I dont think thats the real reason. If so why would so many of our allies have expressed that they want the F22 instead of the F35

      • jef

        lol u guys are hilarious! where do u get ur info from? lol

    • tiger

      11 secret herbs & spices……

  • Belesari

    You know just to put this into perspective for the “F22 IS MORE EXPENSIVE!!!” crowd.

    Less than 200 F-22s were bought. For those 200 we evened out to around 150mil per copy in 2009 Say 170 mil tops now for the greatest air superiority fighter in the world….

    For the F-035 the US alone intends to buy over 2,400 of them…..

    F-35A Flyaway cost: 197mil
    F-35C: 236mil

    Now lets freaking look at those post again ya’ll.

    • Belesari

      By the way all of these stats are from Wikipedia which got them from the DoD.

  • Hoef

    It is interesting that the original post, as well as the comments, all approach the deployment from the perspective of a U.S. strike on Iran (or merely an exercise).

    Perhaps we are still looking at an Israeli strike, where Israel gained overflight rights by securing U.S. defensive assistance assurances for the other Gulf countries. Israel would kick down Iran’s door, with the U.S. providing security to the neighbors against an Iranian retaliation. After the Israelis punch through, I would assume any necessary defensive action like SCUD hunting or anti-shipping defense could be handled by Hornets, Strike Eagles, and Tomahawks. With Israel handling all original offensive kinetic operations, the U.S. maintains a politically defensible role.

    Any news on other systems systems/units (ie. Patriot batteries) popping up?

    • tiger

      Nothing is happening in a election year. Go back to bed….

  • oli

    Anyway all this is speculation no one knows for sure. 20 comments can be written and one hits it on the nail. All true comments if they exist become obscured by other comments. I guess some one hit it on the nail.

  • https://www.facebook.com/antonius.bauwens Antonius Bauwens

    They are there for a reason to show we are capable of anything,anywere,its a dangeruios world out there.asd our top ops..

  • Mastro

    The people most afraid of the F22 are the Air Force pilots who wonder how they will breathe at 30,000 feet when the oxy generator goes out.

    • jef

      lol all i got to say is clueless

  • David

    I think you are all missing the picture, and I think Iran may have just woken up to it. Obama came into office from day one has executed affairs with a strategic mindset. Yes, we do not want Iran to gain nukes and we will not allow that to happen. How we accomplish that though may not be by destroying the locations that fabricate the devices. Irans wealth comes from the ground, it has to be refined, point targets, and transported piped, more point targets. Destroy those refineries and pipelines along with kharg island degrade any repair attempts decimate their navy and tanker fleet and within six months to a year the resources currently assigned to nuclear pursuits will be required to rebuild their oil infrastructure. If Iran thinks sanctions are causing them problems…imagine not being able to bring a drop of oil to the surface and or move it from the wellhead to potential buyers. The tools to do all that are in place, always have been always will be, the only question remains is Iran smart enough to back completely away from nukes or are the leaders there ready for some Arab Spring.

  • Popsiq

    Them being there, with all the other resources pumped into the UAE since the end of last year means they’re NOT just there for the annual camel races and Airshow.

  • JBG

    This David Cenciotti is an idiot! He’s an amateur aero hobbiest who knows nothing about really being in the air force let alone the F-22 and it’s capabilities and specs. For one thing he has the whole upgrade and “Block” classification totally wrong and doesn’t even know what he’s talking about in regard to the increment and spiral upgrades. Not only has the F-22 been capable of dropping SDBs since 2008, it has been ground capable plus a lot more since at least 2004 when it became operational! If any of you all have any sense, you will read official sources by experts who actually know a thing or two instead of this BS! When I accidentally came upon his article and this one I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Really?! Come guys. Let’s be a little smarter regarding what you read and believe and actually put some faith in the fact that the F22 can do every bit of what we say. I’ve seen it in action!

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    The widow of the Air Force pilot killed in the November 2010 crash of an F-22 jet in Alaska has filed suit in federal court in Chicago against Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other members of the contractor team that produced the stealth air-to-air fighter. http://airsoc.com/articles/view/id/4f6136cdc6f8fa…

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