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F-22 Raptors Conduct Debut Strikes On Syria

The U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor conducted its first reported airstrikes against ISIL facilities in Syria Sept. 23, the DOD acknowledged.

The overnight strikes consisted of three waves, said Joint Staff Director of Operations Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville, U.S. Army, in a DOD briefing.

“In the first wave strikes, the USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea and the USS Philippine Sea in the northern Arabian Gulf launched more than 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles in eastern and northern Syria,” Mayville said.

The F-22 Raptors participating in the raid, according to Mayville, were assigned to take out ISIL command and control facilities in a precision strike on a single building.

“The second wave consisted of F-22 Raptors in their first combat role, F-15 Strike Eagles, F-16s, B-1 bombers, and drones. They launched from bases in the region around 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time against targets in northern Syria. The targets included ISIL headquarters, training camps barracks and combat vehicles,” he said. That second wave, however, seems to have been the first wave of air attacks, and the Raptors may have been on the raid because of Syria’s fairly modern air defense system. Syria apparently assured the U.S. and coalition members that its Russian-supplied radars and SAMs would not be directed against the strike, but the F-22s may have been “insurance,” as they would have been able to penetrate any active Syrian air defenses to strike the targets.

F-22 tanks Syria

A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft prior to the type’s first combat strike during operations in Syria, Sept. 23, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Jefferson S. Heiland

“The final wave occurred shortly after midnight Eastern Standard time. F-18s from the USS George H.W. Bush in the northern Arabian Gulf and regionally based U.S. F-16s, among others, attacked targets in eastern Syria, to include ISIL training camps and combat vehicles, principally in that circle to the far east, around Dayr az-Zawr,” Mayville said.

“This strike was the first time the F-22 was used in a combat role.”

“Coalition partners participated in both the second and third waves, supporting with a range of combat capabilities that began with combat air patrols to actual strikes on targets. The preponderance of coalition support was in the third wave.

“Ninety-six percent of all the delivered munitions were precision-guided munitions. And I’d like now to show you several before and after pictures that highlight the effect of these munitions,” he said.

ISIL C2 before and after F-22 Strike

ISIL command and control facility before and after an F-22 strike. DOD image

The F-22 Raptors participating in the raid, according to Mayville, were assigned to take out ISIL command and control facilities in a precision strike on a single building.

“The second picture [shown above] shows an ISIL command and control building in Raqqah that was targeted by U.S. Air Force F-22s during the second wave of strikes,” Mayville said in the briefing. “This strike was the first time the F-22 was used in a combat role. The flight of the F-22s delivered GPS-guided munitions – precision munitions targeting, again, only the right side of the building. You can see on the left-hand side, the before shot, and then you can see as you look at it on the right-hand side, the after shot,” Mayville said.

“And you can see that the … command and control center where it was located in the building was destroyed.”

Video seems to show three or four large explosions on the building, suggesting JDAMs were used, but there may have been other strikes with other munitions such as small diameter bombs (SDBs) not shown in the video.

F-22 Syria tanking

A U.S Air Force KC-10 Extender refuels an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft after strike operations in Syria, Sept. 23, 2014. U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Jefferson S. Heiland

“What we were looking at was the effects we wanted to see on the target areas and what platforms in the region would be best suited to do that,” Mayville said in response to a reporter questioning why F-22s were used in the strike. “We had a large menu of targets to strike from, and we chose from there.

“So, you just – really, it’s less the platform than it is the effects we seek, and then it’s what platform can deliver those effects. That’s really the job of the CAOC.

“As far as what targets and future operations, I’d like to not comment on what our next page [will be] – other than to say that you are seeing the beginnings of a sustained campaign, and strikes like this in the future can be expected,” Mayville said.