The Air Force Is Giving the F-22 a New Job: Sniper in the Sky

    Robert Beckhusen


    That should make Russia and China nervous. 

    Pilots could get helmet-mounted cueing systems, which allows the pilot to target weapons where she or he is looking — the Air Force announced Raptor pilots would receive a high-tech helmet called Scorpion, but never fielded it. It’s not entirely clear whether F-22 pilots would want one, as these helmets — such as on the F-35 — are heavy and potentially dangerous in the event of an ejection. But the pilots love their Raptors, and if their watchful presence over Iraq and Syria is any indication, so does the Air Force.

    Three years ago, four F-22 Raptors taking part in the second-wave of the U.S.-led coalition’s opening airstrikes on Islamic State in Syria dropped their bombs. It was the first time the stealthy fifth-generation fighters had ever engaged in combat. The coalition’s war planners also used the F-22s to leverage their low-observable profiles — and far-reaching sensors — while escorting non-stealthy fighters in case Syrian fighters or air-defense systems engaged.

    Fortunately, the Syrian military held its fire.

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    Fast forward to today, and F-22 Raptors are still flying over Iraq and Syria and have shifted almost fully into that latter role, according to Air Force Magazine. “When we first got here, we were 95 percent precision strike. And now we’re probably 95 percent air superiority,” Lt. Col. “Shell” — a callsign — of the 27th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron told the magazine.

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