Report: F-22 Raptors Launched Airstrikes in Syria

An F-22 Raptor from the U.S. Air Force 525th Fighter Squadron performs a refueling mission with a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., outside of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, during a training mission, Aug. 7, 2014.  The F-22 is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards/ Released)

U.S. Air Force F-22 stealth fighter jets were part of the opening wave of American-led airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State, according to a news report.

Julian Barnes of The Wall Street Journal included that dramatic bit of information in his story about the rapidly evolving military mission against the al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist group:

“Using Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles and Air Force fighter planes, including stealthy F-22s, the U.S. carried out plans for strikes against more than a dozen targets inside portions of Syria controlled by Islamic State militants, officials said.”

The stealthy, highly maneuverable plane was likely used to penetrate and attack the country’s sophisticated Russian-made air defenses, among other targets.

“Syria is not Libya,” Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a research organization in Washington, D.C., said last year in an interview with Military​.com. “Their air defense systems are more formidable. Using F-22s to help suppress those threats and support penetrating capability may be a good idea.”

The Defense Department spent about $67 billion acquiring a fleet of almost 200 F-22 fighter jets, which have only just recently begun flying combat missions.

Last year, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh sketched out a dramatic tale of a lone F-22 Raptor chasing off Iranian fighter jets over the Arabian Gulf. The confrontation was the first publicized engagement involving the Air Force’s most modern fighter and military forces of Iran.

“When the combatant commander wants air power there is only one number to call,” Welsh said, praising Lt. Col. Kevin “Showtime” Sutterfield. “Showtime is an Air Force Reservist,” the chief added. “He flies the F-22. He flies it really well.”

Welsh was referring to an incident in March 2013 in which an Iranian F-4 flew within 16 miles of an MQ-1 Predator drone flying off the coast of Iran before a previously undisclosed aircraft escorted the Predator to safety. That aircraft was an F-22, the Air Force’s fifth generation fighter.

But the plane’s mission in Syria on Monday is a far more significant illustration of its intended use in a combat role and, indeed, mark the first airstrikes in which it has participated.

In its air-to-ground configuration, the fighter can carry pairs of GPS-guided 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, as well as active guided AIM-120s Amraam and AIM-9s Sidewinder missiles. It was slated to be enhanced with upgraded radar and as many as eight small diameter bombs.

The Islamic State has taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria, seizing on the political instability in both countries. Some 200,000 people have died in the more than three-year-old uprising against the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Since August, the U.S. is estimated to have spent more than $1 billion launching thousands of airstrikes, surveillance and other missions in Iraq to thwart advances made by the terrorist group, which had overtaken Mosul and threatened to reach Baghdad.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Chris

    Get some!

  • Lance

    Finally it gets some action for the raptor too bad its not as needed ISIS has no air force and lacks any real anti aircraft defense apart from short range AAA and machine guns. Sure think F-22s and F-15Es will be busy for now taking out ISIS T-55s and technicals in the desert.

    • royrdsjr

      But the Syrians have jets & Russian anti-air missiles & there’s no gaurantee they won’t to go after our jets because we’re bombing in their country.

    • Bobby

      Not entirely accurate. ISIS has seized a lot of Syrian and Iraqi equipment (“Never been fired and only dropped once!”). This could very likely include more robust AD/AA equipment, whether or not ISIS knows how to properly use them is another question entirely. But thats what stealth is for, once those assets are confirmed to be out of action then the sky is clear for lowly MQ-1s and MQ-9s to prowl for days and SuperBugs and StrikeEagles to pound the crap out of ISIS targets. Who knows, it be nice to see something along the lines of “MOAB dropped on ISIS camp” in the headlines sometime soon.

  • mpower6428

    Is that why we’re bombing Syria…? seems legit.

  • BlackOwl18E

    Combat debut of the F-22. This is actually surprising.

    However, I don’t see the point to needing to sneak into Syria to do this. We created that necessity ourselves. Bashar Assad was willing to cooperate with us in the fight against ISIS and our president snubbed him.

    • royrdsjr

      Because Assad is an “evil dictator gassing his own people,” & it’s hard to ask for help from the person you are trying to overthrow.

    • Steve

      Willing to cooperate if we give him all the details on what planes, what targets and they wanted us to basically fight his war for him! We are not there to win Assad a war but to eliminate ISIS.

      Especially when Mr Assad is soooo friendly with Mr Putin (he doesn’t help and is HIS friend why should tax payers win a war for him!)

      Assad cant continue in power, we need a pipe line that will go through Syria, up in to Turkey, through the Black sea in to the Ukraine so that Russia cant play the “gas” game via Gazprom!

      See how everything is connected….

      • tiger

        More internet stupidity… As dumb as the Afghan pipeline bs.

    • blight_qwerty

      The other problem is that Assad would likely give the US FSA targets instead of ISIS targets…once we crushed the wrong rebellion Assad would be able to mop up the “crazies” with America turning a blind eye to whatever weapons he chose to use the next time around. If the FSA collapsed overnight I doubt the US would bat an eye for them. The FSA failed, time to assert plausible deniability and move on.

      • tiger

        Welcome to the Obama foreign policy…

    • jacob

      You mean the same Assad that released Islamic extremists from prison, then turned a blind eye towards them and let them grow into this menace so that he could say “Look at the rebels! They’re all terrorists and jihadists!”?

    • Nicholas .a

      Imagine if Obama was smart enough to do that. The World would be a more secure place.

  • royrdsjr

    You got to love Fox News Megyn Kelly,she said that we were flying B-1 “stealth bombers” & that the NAVY introduced for the first time “their” F-22 Stealth Raptors. I was screaming at my TV correcting her.

    • blight_qwerty

      I had the misfortune of being on msnbc and reading a terrible blog post about how “liberal women ugly, conservative women beautiful”. Could I just get accurate news without an ideological slant without this fetish for appearance?

    • Mark

      Well, the B-1 does have some LO on it, but by no means is it to today’s “stealth” specs.

  • oblatt22

    The F-22 probably just flew past the border. They aren’t good for much more than an airshow.

  • Steve

    The main reason is that Assad would only accept if WE only dropped bombs on sights he wanted us to, basically fighting HIS war for him! He also wanted full disclosure on any activity in Syria, he is not in any conditions to negotiate anything.

    Plus he has a toy called S300… pretty advanced, not for the F22 but just in case!

  • sundown

    I hope they have contingency plans in the event one crashes or gets shot down. You can bet China and Russia are sending help to bring one down so they can advance their own aerospace programs like they did with the F-117A that got shot down over the Balkins. If we lose one of our F-22s we better JDAM the crash site so we don’t have an incident like the stealth helicopter tail rotor from the UBL raid being carted off to the highest bidder on video on CNN

    • OreLaker

      Agreed. I was shocked that they didn’t have an armed drone or some other asset over Pakistan in the event that they needed to blow up one of the stealth helicopters.

    • mule

      If one did get shot down, it would utterly devastate the Air Force’s obsessive persuit of really expensive stealth planes. They might need to call in some Growlers to protect the F-22s

  • 009

    FINALLY! Dust beneath the wings of this bird, RIGHT ON!!!

  • Martin Kaufman

    Hey Oblatt22: You really don’t know the how powerful the F-22 is. It is so powerful, that while America was reducing its new Weapons, the Soviet Union was building up its arsenal. It’s the only plane that can handle any new generation of Warsaw fighter Jets without being blown away!! You should really do research on the comparison of Warsaw Pact Fighters to NATO fighters and you will be much more educated instead of your inexperienced comment about the F-22.

    • oblatt22

      Ah yea sure we’re reducing our weapons because the F-22 is so powerful sure LOL

    • Nope. F-22 is good, but it isn’t the best. http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/com

      • wpnexp

        Interesting article, but sadly incomplete. For instance, if an opposing fighters radar or radar guided missile will not lock on to the F-22, then they are forced to close to very close ranges where and IR missile can get a tone while still on the fighter, or even to gun range. That would be a pretty clear disadvantage. There have been numerous reports of aircraft having an F-22 in visual range, but could not lock a missile onto the fighter. Second, you speak nothing of the fact that US fighters have almost a complete lock on AESA radars on fighters. That won’t last much longer, but it is a major factor in radar detection range and reliability as well as stealth. The ESM system on the F-22 probably has nothing like it to be campared to in the world. Finally, while nothing can actually replace actual flying time, the US is able to get more out of a flying hour because the pilots are able to work out a lot issues by flying in very high fidelity simulators. Therefore, once in the air, pilots can concentrate on the skills needed to fight the plane better without having to deal with routine requirements.

        • Radar is not the only sensor, and modern IRST + IR BVR missile combination as used by Rafale is capable of targeting fighter aircraft at ranges well above actual BVR missile effective range (which is cca 30-50 km), so no great disadvantage there. In fact, it would be more effective than radar since it does not warn the opponent of one’s presence, and missiles flying on inertia aren’t effective against maneuvering targets.

          Simulators are good for basic training, but they can’t replace flying hours.

          • blight_qwerty

            If it comes to low RCS vs low RCS then other sensors like IRST come to the fore. But when low RCS aircraft go against those without low RCS, you’ll probably get that radar lock before they can get enough of a signature for a BVR missile launch.

            Looking into IR BVR missiles my guess is you are thinking about the MICA, which comes in radar-homing and infra-red flavors. With an effective range of 50km, I will look into effective range of the IRST on the Rafale and the IR sensor on the MICA IR. Under best case scenario the Rafale IRST is bigger and provides data to the missile.

            R-27 missile is also made with several seeker heads, the IR, SARH and ARH variants. Declared “effective kill range” of 2-33 km, maximum range “63 km”. Unsure if these are missile seeker limitations or if effective kill range can be enhanced by the aircraft with datalink.

            Very strict rules of engagement would presumably limit engagement ranges enough to give the IR missiles something to lock onto. But after that first punch the ROE is unlikely to be as relaxed, which presents problems to the IR-based system.

          • “you’ll probably get that radar lock before they can get enough of a signature for a BVR missile launch.”

            BVR missile launch maybe (even then, not very likely with modern defense suites), but BVR missile kill? No. You’ll be wasting your missiles.

            “Looking into IR BVR missiles my guess is you are thinking about the MICA, which comes in radar-homing and infra-red flavors. With an effective range of 50km,”

            MICA has maximum aerodynamic range of 80 km: http://www.ffaa.net/weapons/mica/mica_fr.htm
            (ixarm also had the 80 km figure)

            “I will look into effective range of the IRST on the Rafale”

            80 km maximum head-on detection range vs subsonic fighter-sized target.

            “But after that first punch the ROE is unlikely to be as relaxed, which presents problems to the IR-based system.”

            Not really, missile effective range is well within IRST’s detection range.
            http://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/use

        • tiger

          Is that before or after the F-22 pilot passes out from fumes?

    • tiger

      Warsaw Pact fighters? Holly Marty McFly & the delorean…
      Yeah, I spend late nights in terror of East Germans. Sigh……

  • The one armed man

    To all those who said the F-22 was worthless, hasn’t seen combat, the stealth doesn’t work, it wasn’t used in libya because it really can’t do what it was supposed to do, etc can now shut the f*** up.

  • CEMILLER

    No the F-22 took out air defenses that threatened the strike package that attacked ISIL.

  • godzillajet

    FINALLY! The day has come where all F-22 haters may just SHUT THE FUCK UP

  • rtsy

    Wonder how much intel the Syrians were able to collect on it.

    • mule

      No kidding. I’m betting some Russian advisors are going over ever bit of radar footage looking for any anomalies.

    • tiger

      Leave that job the to the Russians. The recent TU-95 flights have been bait to get us to send up F-22’s for photo taking.

  • Peter Miles

    Our news (UK) is reporting that the Syrians permitted these strikes. That being the case I don’t understand why the F-22’s were needed. Unless we don’t trust the Syrians which, I suppose, is fair enough.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Even if we had Syrian permission – explicit or tacit – having the bombs delivered by an aircraft they couldn’t track was probably insurance against someone making a mistake.

    • citanon

      Most of the bombs were delivered by planes they could track. The F-22 was there to kill anyone who “made a mistake”.

  • Nick987654

    It is important for the USAF to test the capabilities of the F-22 in relatively easy scenarios. If one day the USAF is involved in a large scale war against a near peer enemy, they have to have a good idea of the real effectiveness of the SDB on the F-22, as it could be a potential game changer.

    • tiger

      Try more like justify the existence of the program to Congress after 13 years of zero action. Test? You sent a Mig shooter on a milk run with no MiGS or Sukhoi’s…..

      Like sending A-rod to the Company softball game….

  • John

    The most powerful weapon on the F-22 is held within it’s passive sensors capabilities, this is the primary reason it was used IMO.

  • Stephen foley

    How can an Iranian jet be chased away by a plane it cant see?? Lol

    • tiger

      Eyeballs….. It is not Wonder woman’s jet. Stealthy does not mean 100 % not detectable.

  • Cataldo

    F22s in Siria are a political asset, not else. They fly over Siria to show everybody that the real target is Assad, not Isis, and that he can be reached in minutes.. There are some secondary windows of opportunity for same new sigint, but is not so important.

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