SOUTHWEST ASIA — U.S. fourth-generation fighter jets this month scored some historic air-to-air kills in Syria.
On June 18, a Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet conducted the U.S. military’s first air-to-air kill involving a manned aircraft in nearly two decades when it downed a hostile Su-22 Fitter south of Taqbah. On June 8 and again on June 20, Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles shot down Iranian-made Shaheed drones over At Tanf as the unmanned aerial vehicles approached or dropped munitions near U.S.-backed forces on the ground.
But aviation geeks, or “AvGeeks,” couldn’t help but wonder why the most advanced fifth-generation air-to-air fighter — the Air Force’s F-22A Raptor made by Lockheed Martin Corp. — was missing from the action.
So this reporter posed that question to Brig. Gen. Charles Corcoran, commander of the 380th Expeditionary Wing, which houses the F-22s for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Pentagon’s name for the anti-ISIS campaign.
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Sitting down for an interview at his office at a base here in an undisclosed location, Corcoran explained that while F-22s are indeed forward deployed, there is a limited number of the aircraft in theater and they’re not always circling over the warzone given the distances between the locations.
“We put the F-22s in the highest-threat areas as much as we can, but they can’t be there 24/7,” Corcoran told Military.com on Monday.
“When these occurrences took place,” he said, referring to the pro-Syrian regime aircraft threatening U.S.-backed forces in recent weeks, “the [aircraft] that were there were F-18s and F-15s.”
Corcoran, himself a Raptor pilot, mentioned that a KC-10 airman asked him, “[I] heard you guys are mad at the F-15E guys” for getting the kill.
“Really, who told you that?” Corcoran recalled responding.
The KC-10 airman replied, “The F-15E guys.”
Corcoran said he reassured him, “No, nobody’s sad about not getting a kill. We’re happy that everyone’s doing their job.”