The Lockheed F-22 Raptor has seen some action over Syria – but now it can also add Afghanistan to the places where it has fought. The fifth-generation fighter made its combat debut against the Taliban on Nov. 20.
According to a report by the Aviationist, the Raptors took part in strikes against Taliban-operated drug labs that produced opium. Opium can then be refined into heroin, which is worth $200 a gram in the United States.
A F-22 Raptors from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly off the wing of a KC-135 Stratotanker on their way to Iraq, Jan. 30 2015. The F-22s are supporting the U.S. lead coalition against Da'esh. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston/Released)
A release by Operation Resolute Support headquarters noted that the F-22s were selected due to their ability to use the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, or SDB. The release noted that the reduction of collateral damage was a consideration in the selection of the F-22 to carry out the attack.
According to Designation-Systems.net, the GBU-39 comes in at 285 pounds, has a 250-pound blast-fragmentation warhead, and a range of over 60 nautical miles. A F-22 Raptor can carry up to eight in its internal weapons bays. Improved versions, like the GBU-40 and GBU-53 add multi-mode seekers to engage moving targets.
Staff Sgt. Randy Broome signals a jammer operator to move a Bomb Rack Unit 61 forward, while loading it onto an F-15E Strike Eagle at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, on Aug. 1. The NCO is an aircraft weapons specialist with the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)
The F-22 strikes come in the wake of President Trump's new strategy on Afghanistan. As part of the new strategy, rules of engagement were loosened. Prior to the announcement of the new strategy, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut when it was used against a tunnel system.
The war in Afghanistan has also seen the employment of a very old aircraft. During Operation Enduring Freedom, NASA used a version of the B-57 Canberra over the combat theater.