By Bijan Razzaghi
The US Air Forces F-22A Raptor has been operational since 2005 and has since been the primary Air Superiority Fighter of the US backing up the older F-15Cs. Production of the Raptor was cut in 2009 with 381 aircraft being brought down to the existing 187. The F-22s air superiority capability has been well known with its 104.1 record during training exercises in the United States. The F-22 though it not limited to air to air engagements the aircraft possess a robust air to ground and ISR capability that makes the aircraft perfect for operations in A2/AD Anti Access Area Denial) environments.
The F-22s ground attack capability allows the aircraft to conduct precision strikes on both static targets and moving targets. The F-22 can employ up to 2 x 1000lb GBU-32 JDAMs or 8 x 250 lb GBU-39 SDBs. The F-22 does not have a targeting pod like the F-35A or 4th generation legacy platforms, instead F-22s uses the air to ground function of its Northrop Grumman AN/APG-77v1 high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar, mapping and ground moving target indication and track (GMTI/GMTT). The power of the AN/APG-77 allows for a image like picture of the target area to be created much like an actual targeting pod. This gives the F-22 Raptor a full range of air to ground capabilities including Close Air Support, SEAD and Interdiction. The F-22s range of 1,839 miles allows the aircraft to fly deep into enemy territory undetected. This capability can bridge US Air Forces Deep Strike gap is the F-15E if ever retired.
The F-22 can also provide a unique ISR capability being able to fly into denied air space undetected and direct Cruise Missile strikes from B-1Bs and B-52s operating in un denied airspace. F-22s Raptors can also direct Tomahawk strikes from ships at sea. The ability to conduct target identification and battle damage assessment without being targeted by enemy defenses makes the F-22 the perfect choice for air to ground and ISR operations with the presence of anti access and area denial (A2/AD) defenses.
F-22s are perfectly positioned for any possible conflict with North Korea having a large presence in the Pacific and west coast region. The US Air Forces 187 F-22s are being complemented with the F-35A Lightning which will be ready for combat deployment in the next month with the new 3F software upgrades.