The Invincible F-22 Raptor? Think again.

F-22 Raptor “Far and away the best air-to-air fighter ever produced”

F-22 Raptor shooting gun for the first timeAbove quotation is from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. And he’s not known as a “Raptor-friend” as he cut the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor production to just 187 of the famous stealth fighters – which lead to a incredibly high USD 400 mio per F-22 produced. Many experts questioned if it is worth to spend that much on a single fighter aircraft. Thoughts were that even though the F-22 is a huge step in technology, it might not be worth to spend that much. More and cheaper aircraft even if less developed would in the end be the better choice. But none of the experts questioned the F-22 itself from a technological point of view – it was somehow clear that the F-22 Raptor was simply invincible. Another similar quotation is from former Air Force general Norton Schwartz: “Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor […] unquestionably the best air-to-air fighter in the arsenal of the world’s leading air force.

How to Defeat the Mighty USAF Stealth Fighter.

Now here is the surprising fact – During a recent Red Flag exercise in Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor had some dogfights against eight German “Luftwaffe” EADS Eurofighter Typhoons. The Eurofighter Typhoon is a 4.5th generation, non-stealthy aircraft. With a system cost of around €90m per aircraft (German Tranche 3A) the Eurofighter is far cheaper – even due to the fact that the cost is far higher than expected. So you would expect the F-22 having a good kill/loss ration against the Eurofighter. And it seems both the Luftwaffe pilots in the Eurofighters and the US Air Force pilots in their F-22 were surprised about the result. A German Eurofighter pilot proudly said “Yesterday we had Raptor salad for lunch”. German Major Marc Gruene summarized the air-to-air exercise with “We were evenly matched”. Major Gruene further said “The key is to get as close as possible to the F-22 Raptor and then stay there. They didn’t expect us to turn so aggressively.” In close air-to-air combat, in slower, close-range tangle (merge), the “bigger and heavier F-22 is at a disadvantage”.

The result and the huge purchasing cost of the F-22 led to the ABC-News Headline: “F-22 Raptor Loses $79 Billion Advantage in Dogfights”.

Can the F-22 kill any enemy aircraft beyond visual range only?

F-22A Raptor fighters delivery flight at Langley Air Force Base (AFB)The Raptor excels at fighting from beyond visual range with its high speed and altitude, Major Gruene said. Main reason for the advantage on long range is the superior radar and the Raptor’s long-range AMRAAM missiles. And this is exactly the combat tactics the F-22 was developed for: “Advanced air forces plan to do most of their fighting at long range and avoid the risky, close-in tangle” says Maj. Gruene. But there is evidence that this might be wishful thinking: Think tank RAND warned against relying in long-range missiles. The Air Force-funded RAND researched 588 air-to-air shoot-downs since 1950. RAND counted in the study that just 24 air-to-air kills occurred with the attacking fighter jet firing from beyond visual range. Long-range air-to-air missiles used by the US Air Force have been 90-percent less effective than predicted – which could also be a result of the mighty lobbies in the US. Weapons might be less effective in real combat (or “real” exercise) than assumed. The link to the study can be found below.

 

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