The Indispensable Raptor

The F-22—in combat operations for less than a year—is proving “even better than we thought,” Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle told reporters at ASC15. “We won’t send airplanes into certain areas” of the Syria/Iraq battlezone “unless they have F-22s with them,” Carlisle said, praising the situational awareness of the jets, their precision attack ability and capacity to serve as the quarterback of any air operation. Moreover, the F-22s are turning in mission capable rates of 75-80 percent, and “even better in the field,” he noted, and are proving “far more” maintainable than originally expected. “So far in the Middle East, they’ve flown thousands of hours and flown hundreds of sorties and dropped hundreds of bombs with incredible accuracy.” During the recent deployment of F-22s to Europe, the jets “flew 100 percent” of the scheduled sorties. The deployment “went exceedingly well,” he said, and the rapid deployment was a great messaging vehicle. “When American airpower shows up in a place people don’t expect…it sends a pretty big message. (It) assures our allies, friends, and partners, and also sends a distinct message to potential adversaries out there that we can be where we need to be when we need to be there.” Carlisle acknowledged that the number of F-22s is far too small, and when asked if USAF should buy more, said, “I dream about it every night.” Practically, though, he said the budget may just be too tight to permit such a thing, although the tooling was retained when the production line closed. Carlisle called the F-22 “extraordinary” and “really reaching its stride.”