F-22 Is Deconflicting Operations Over Syria

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Unread post17 Jun 2017, 00:54

http://aviationweek.com/defense/how-f-2 ... over-syria

How F-22 Is Deconflicting U.S.-Russia Operations Over Syria

Jun 14, 2017
Lara Seligman

“Shell” was just days into his first deployment to U.S. Central Command (Centcom) when U.S. Navy destroyers launched a surprise strike against the Syrian regime, pummeling Shayrat Airfield with dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles. In the tense wake of the attack, Shell, a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel and Raptor squadron commander who spoke on the condition that Aviation Week identify him only by his call sign, and his squadron of stealth F-22 Lockheed Martin Raptors had a critical job to do: deconflict coalition operations over Syria with an irate Russia. The U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has leaned heavily on the air-superiority fighter since its debut there in 2014. The F-22, originally designed as an air-to-air platform, has become crucial to the fight, regularly striking ground targets, providing close air support (CAS) for soldiers in battle, and protecting legacy strike fighters from surface and air threats. But one of the most critical missions the F-22 conducts in the skies over Syria, particularly in the weeks following the April 6 Tomahawk strike, is deconfliction between coalition and noncoalition aircraft, says Shell. Of course, the F-22 is not the only asset deconflicting the crowded skies over Centcom. The Air Force’s airborne command-and-control aircraft and high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, as well as ground-based command-and-control forces, are also helping clear the area. But the stealth F-22’s ability to evade detection gives it a unique advantage in getting noncoalition players to cooperate, says Shell. “It is easier to bring air dominance to bear if you know where the other aircraft are that you are trying to influence, and they don’t know where you are,” says Shell. “When other airplanes don’t know where you are, their sense of comfort goes down, so they have a tendency to comply more.” 

The F-22 provided a crucial communications node when tensions between the U.S. and Russia were running high. Following the Tomahawk strikes, Moscow condemned the attack and suspended the so-called “deconfliction line” the two countries used to coordinate air operations over Syria. U.S. President Donald Trump said relations with Russia were at an “all-time low.” But U.S. and noncoalition aircraft were still communicating directly, over an internationally recognized, unsecure frequency often used for emergencies known as “Guard,”  says Shell. His F-22s acted as a kind of quarterback, using high-fidelity sensors to determine the positions of all the actors on the battlefield, directing noncoalition aircraft where to fly and asking them over the Guard frequency to move out of the way. The Raptors were able to fly in contested areas, in range of surface-to-air missile systems and fighters, without the noncoalition players knowing their exact positions, Shell says. This allowed them to establish air superiority—giving noncoalition forces freedom of movement in the air and on the ground—and a credible deterrent. “If we need to let them know that we are there for any reason, then we will let them know that we are there—usually to deter something that they are trying to do that we don’t want them to do,” he explains. During those weeks after April 6, Shell and his squadron temporarily moved all of their operations into Syria. In addition to helping deconflict and deter noncoalition actors, the F-22s also provided defensive counter-air for allied forces on the ground and in the air, and occasionally conducted ground strikes and CAS, Shell says. He stresses that the interactions with noncoalition aircraft were always “professional,” adding that his squadron experienced “nothing that raises any eyebrows.” Two months after the strikes, Shell’s squadron is back to splitting its time between Iraq and Syria.

The aircraft is performing “immaculately,” even in  mission sets it was not built for, such as CAS, Shell says. As of May 28, the Raptor had conducted 1,150 sorties, including 497 CAS sorties, and employed 1,572 weapons since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, according to the Air Force. In the CAS role, the F-22 augments the platforms already conducting that mission in the region, such as the F-15E, the B-52 bomber and the A-10, Shell says. While the A-10 is renowned for the roar of its 30-mm Gatling gun and its long loiter time, the F-22 brings precision-guided munitions (PGM) such as the GBU-32 and Small-Diameter Bomb. PGMs significantly reduce civilian casualties and potential damage to buildings and other structures in the area, Shell points out. Although the F-22 can perform CAS well, it is not built for that role as is the A-10— it is just another tool combatant commanders can use to complete the mission, Shell stresses. 

Overall, the most important thing the Raptor brings to the OIR fight is air superiority, Shell says. “Our ground troops have not been attacked from the air since April 15, 1953, and that is because of the U.S. Air Force providing air dominance,” he adds. “The F-22 is the primary provider of air superiority in Operation Inherent Resolve.”


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Unread post19 Jun 2017, 03:16

Thanks for the post. Adds nice color to what they are doing in Syria. Did not know they were actually dropping bombs.
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Unread post19 Jun 2017, 03:33

An impressive number of munitions deployed considering the small number of Raptors deployed.

As of May 28, the Raptor had conducted 1,150 sorties, including 497 CAS sorties, and employed 1,572 weapons since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in 2014, according to the Air Force.
"When a fifth-generation fighter meets a fourth-generation fighter—the [latter] dies,”
CSAF Gen. Mark Welsh


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Unread post21 Jun 2017, 06:40

citanon wrote:Thanks for the post. Adds nice color to what they are doing in Syria. Did not know they were actually dropping bombs.

The F-22 was one of the first US planes to drop bombs in Syria, almost 3 years ago now: http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2014/09/25/ ... perts.html

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