NEWS

F-22s will soon deploy anywhere in the world with 24 hours notice

The Air Force is strengthening its "Rapid Raptor" program designed to fast-track four F-22s to war — anywhere in the world — within 24 hours, on a moments notice, should there be an immediate need for attacks in today's pressured, fast-moving global threat environment , service officials said.


The program, in existence for several years, prepares four F-22s with the requisite crew members, C-17 support, fuel, maintenance and weapons necessary to execute a fast-attack "first-strike" ability in remote or austere parts of the world, Air Force officials say.

First strike options are, according to military planners, of particular significance for the F-22 Raptor, given its technical focus on using stealth and air-to-air combat technology to attack heavily defended or "contested" enemy areas.

"If jets, no matter how technically advanced, tactically skilled and strategically sound in the air, can only leap from well-known base to well-known base, their first-strike threat is limited," an Air Force statement said.

Most air attack contingencies, it seems almost self-evident, are likely to include F-22s as among the first to strike; the aircraft is designed to engage and destroy enemy air threats and also use stealth to destroy enemy air defenses – creating an "air corridor" for other fighters. Although not intended to function as a higher altitude stealth bomber, an F-22 is well suited to a mission objective aimed at destroying enemy aircraft, including fighters, as well as air defenses.

F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kayla Newman)

​The Raptor is, by design, engineered to fly in tandem with fourth-generation fighters such as an F-15 or F-18, to not only pave the way for further attacks but also to use its longer-range sensors to hand off targets to 4th gen planes for follow-on attacks.

Rapid Raptor was originally developed by Air Force Pacific Command and has since been expanded to a global sphere by Air Combat Command, service officials said.

"The ACC Rapid Raptor program's aim is to take the concept, as developed in PACAF, and change it from a theater specific to a worldwide capability." Staff. Sgt. Sarah Trachte, Air Combat Command spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven in a written statement.

Also read: This 'Einstein Box' helps F-22s secretly communicate with unstealthy planes

As part of the Rapid Raptor concept, ACC F-22s forward deployed to Europe in 2015 and 2016, she added. Using the Rapid Raptor program for Europe is, in many respects, entirely consistent with the Pentagon's broader European posture; for many years now, DoD and NATO have been positioning deterrence-oriented forces throughout the European continent as well conducting numerous allied "solidarity" or "interoperability" exercises.

Apart from demonstrating force as a counterbalance to Russian posturing, these activities are also part of a decided strategic effort to demonstrate "mobility" and rapid deployability.

An F-22 Raptor intercepts Russian Bear In Alaska.

Therefore, so while Air Force officials are careful to say the Rapid Raptor, as a concept does, not "target" any specific nation, its utilization in Europe is indeed of great relevance given existing tensions with Russia.

Furthermore, multiple news reports cited F-22 participation in wargame exercises over the Korean peninsula last year – a fact which certainly lends evidence to the possibility that the Raptor would figure prominently in any attack on North Korea.

Related: Russian fighters and F-22s almost had a catastrophic midair crash

Also, apart from being prepared to conduct major-power, nation state warfare across the globe within 24-hours, the Rapid Raptor program is designed to enable ground attack options in unexpected, remote or "austere" target areas.

Accordingly, should the need to attack emerge suddenly in a particular part of the world, a small continent of F-22s will be able to get there. The point here, it seems clear, is that recent global combat circumstances have further reinforced the importance of the F-22s ground attack or close-air-support ability.

Of course, historically, many most immediately think of the F-22 in terms of its speed, maneuverability and dogfighting advantage as an air supremacy fighter, yet its recent air to ground attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan have fortified its role in an air-to-ground fight.

An F-22 deploys flares. (Photo by USAF.)

While the F-22 is by no means intended to function as an A-10 would in a close-in ground fight persay, it does have a 20mm cannon which has been used in ground attacks against ISIS, officials familiar with the war effort say.

As recently as this past November, the F-22 conducted a successful ground attack against a Taliban facility in Afghanistan, news reports and officials familiar with the attack said.

More: This is what the F-22 Raptor's replacement will be like

To support these kinds of mission options, the F-22 weapons compliment includes ground-specific attack weapons such as Joint Direct Attack Munitions – such as the GBU 32 and GBU 39 -- and the Small Diameter Bomb.

"Since the jet first deployed in 2014, it has been capable of air-to-ground and air-to-air. We have the small diameter bomb and JDAMs in the AOR. its typical load out is eight SDBs and two AMRAAMS (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile)," Ken Merchant, Vice President, F-22 programs, Lockheed Martin, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

History

This pilot shot down an enemy fighter at Pearl Harbor in his pajamas

Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it's hot on the work site, it's important to stay cool. If it's hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.

Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army's aircraft on the ground.

Damaged aircraft on Hickam Field, Hawaii, after the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.

By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.

Pearl Harbor pilots Harry Brown, Phil Rasmussen, Ken Taylor, George Welch, and Lewis Sanders.

They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.

The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol' martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.

Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.

There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A's fuselage.

Skillz.

Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.

(U.S. Air Force photo)

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