The aircraft was first introduced in December of 2005; the F-22 Raptor fighter jet delivered some of the first strikes in the U.S.-led attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, when aerial bombing began in 2014.
(Washington, D.C.) The Air Force and Lockheed Martin are now arming the F-22 stealth fighter with more long-range precision attack technology, a wider targeting envelope or “field of regard” and new networking technology enabling improved, real-time “collaborative targeting” between aircraft.
The new weapons not only increase F-22 lethality, but are already shaping future Air Force combat tactics. As the service moves quickly to try to sustain air supremacy in today’s much more threatening environment, developers are adding, refining, testing and adjusting stealth fighter attack strategies and tactics to best leverage the F-22s technical improvements.
“Better weapons will expand the envelope of what is possible as the threat evolves. I expect the F-22 tactics and operational employment tactics will evolve along with these new weapons,” Lt. Gen. David Deptula (Ret), Dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told Warrior.
The two new weapons, which have been under testing and development for several years now, are advanced variants of existing weapons – the AIM-9X air-to-air missile and the AIM 120-D. Upgraded variants of each, now being built into existing F-22s, have already flown in combat exercises. Lockheed developers tell Warrior that 14 F-22s have already been armed with the new weapons variants with more slated for next year.
“We are rolling these out across the fleet. We started the modifications and retrofit at Langley. We are doing these on site at the bases where the jets will roll immediately out off the flight line,” OJ Sanchez, F-22 Vice President, Lockheed, told Warrior.
Sanchez said Lockheed engineers have been incorporating feedback from F-22 pilots who flew the upgraded aircraft several months ago at an Air Force exercise called Red Flag. The margin of difference experienced during the exerciseis already leading Air Force strategist to adjust F-22 tactics to accommodate the added weapons capacity.
“The capability is proving to be valuable to them. Warfighters plan to expand tactics learned from that (Red Flag). They are using F-22s in ways they did not see,” Sanchez explained.
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