According to an Associated Press report, the F-22 Raptor, the most advanced fighter jet currently being fielded by the United States, is having an increasingly important role in the fight against ISIS.
The aircraft is now regularly flying escort missions for bombers and other aircraft that are striking ISIS positions.
The F-22 has also been used in air to ground operations at least 60 times since it has been put into action.
From the report:
The F-22s make other U.S. aircraft more survivable. It really is enabling all the rest of the team,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told The Associated Press. “Perhaps this is a good model to think about for the future.”
Officials acknowledge that the counterinsurgency fight against IS isn’t the main type of combat the F-22 was built to wage. The high-performance fighter is designed to excel in more challenging combat situations, with its abilities to evade sophisticated air defense systems and be nearly invisible to other highly capable aircraft. Its advanced engines allow it to fly at faster-than-sound speeds without using afterburners that consume more fuel.
“Flying it where we are now, I would not say is a very dense or a very high threat environment,” said Maj. Gen. J.D. Harris, Jr., vice commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. In Iraq and Syria he said, “its primary role is to make sure that it dominates the sky, so it keeps other air forces down on the ground, keeps them away from our airplanes that are not as good in the air-to-air role.”