Evolving Target, Threat Challenges in Syria

Though concerns about the Syrian government’s robust air defenses have played a part in the decision to use assets like the F-22 in certain areas over Syria, as of Sept. 29 Syrian integrated air defenses remained a “passive threat,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and requirements on the Air Staff. No coalition aircraft have made any contacts with Syrian aircraft, Harrigian confirmed, but air planners are taking precautions due to the presence of potential ground and air based threats to US and allied aircraft. “We are still very cognizant and wary,” Harrigian said of the presence of Syrian IADS. He said airmen could “very quickly be in a very hostile environment, so its imperative that we stay appropriately prepared and ready to respond.” One of the capabilities the F-22 is actively performing, he noted, is to carry out defensive counter air taskings to ensure other aerial assets flying in or near the airspace are protected. The Raptor’s sensors and avionics capabilities are a big asset in this role, he added. F-22 pilots are able to provide other aircraft and planners more situational awareness, said Harrigian.