YouTube clip purports F-22 shootdown by T-38 [UPDATE: ENGAGEMENT CONFIRMED]

[UPDATE: The successful T-38 kill occurred within the last three months at Holloman AFB, NM, says Lt Col Lloyd Addison, chief of the USAF's T-38 sustainment office.

That means the aircraft is from the same black-painted T-38 unit that escorted F-117s before they were retired. Now, the Holloman T-38's provide proficiency training for F-22 pilots, among other tasks. It seems likely that an experienced F-22 pilot was in the cockpit of the T-38.]

The facts are a bit sketchy here. This clip was posted to YouTube on 18 April by an anonymous user named “d43e49“. The video identifies the attacking aircraft as a T-38, but it’s not confirmed by anything shown within the clip. At the 35-sec mark, the F-22′s shape is clearly visible as it emerges above the target sight after the kill.

As far as I know, this is the first video clip of a simulated F-22 shootdown to reach the public domain. That is newsworthy by itself. Let’s also be very clear: a single simulated kill without context says nothing meaningful about the F-22′s dogfighting or aerial prowess. Even an EA-18G can apparently get lucky once.

If a T-38 was really involved, then congratulations to the pilot. Your are either absurdly lucky or insanely skilled.


36 Responses to YouTube clip purports F-22 shootdown by T-38 [UPDATE: ENGAGEMENT CONFIRMED]

  1. bobbymike 20 April, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    Not unusual alhtough the T-38 pilot is obviously very good. I read that F-22′s are being flown by very inexperienced pilots and I also expect that T-38 was flown by a 10000hr instructor.

  2. HerkEng 20 April, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    Would this have ever happened if the aircraft started the engagement BVR? I doubt it. Once in close…any airplane is vulnerable.

  3. Dave 20 April, 2009 at 5:49 pm #

    Steve, from my conversations with several F-22 pilots, the T-38 is actually one of the more difficult aircraft to fight for the Raptor- mainly because its so small… it’s one of the reasons they use the T-38 to train against for WVR fights. Raptor’s not invincible.

  4. Sven Ortmann 20 April, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    “If a T-38 was really involved, then congratulations to the pilot. Your are either absurdly lucky or insanely skilled. ”

    Unless the world didn’t change much when the F-22 appeared, of course.

    WVR combat always had the same pattern:
    Kills mostly by surprise attacks.
    Maneuvering mostly to prevent accurate aiming by chasing aircraft or to break the chase entirely.

    Btw; I’m not surprised (albeit I’m not sure that the T-38 story is correct):

  5. Stephen Trimble 20 April, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    Great blog post. I love the analogy to battleships.

  6. Lightndattic 20 April, 2009 at 7:23 pm #

    Stephen, there is another clip of a T-38C showing VERY similar HUD symbology. The shootdown looks legit to me.

  7. Jason 20 April, 2009 at 7:43 pm #

    Where have I seen something similar to this before? That’s right AIMVAL/ACEVAL against F-15s and F-14s in the 1970s.

  8. Aggressor? 20 April, 2009 at 11:12 pm #

    I’m out of loop on this, but is the USAF still using T-38′s as aggressor aircraft (or maybe involved in evaluation/tactics development as referenced above by Jason)? An aggressor pilot would definitely have the experience and knowledge to fly a T-38 to its strengths (low visibility, transient amaneuverability, etc)

  9. Dave 20 April, 2009 at 11:33 pm #

    The T-38s aren’t used as dedicated Aggressors- they just get IFF instructors to go on TDYs.

  10. Joe 20 April, 2009 at 11:38 pm #

    Something’s seriously fishy here. Was that Raptor pilot asleep? Did the Raptor have a bum engine? TVC on the fritz? Anyone who’s seen Raptor demos on YouTube knows what wicked breaking turns the jet is capable of (far more than what can be achieved by a Talon). Also the Raptor has over 75k lbs of push coming out its rear (T/W well above unity), the Talon has about 10% of that (T/W of 0.7). Climb rates are 34k-ft/min. vs. over 61k favoring the Raptor. And what about all that VLO tech? Again, FISHY.

  11. Dave 20 April, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    Here’s the deal- any fighter can lose a WVR fight. It’s just a fact of life- an acquaintance of mine described flying a T-38, while he was an IFF instructor, against a F-15C pilot at Nellis. The F-15C pilot was undergoing the almighty Weapons School instructor pilot upgrade, however, he screwed up and lost to a T-38 flown by a guy with less than half his experience… he simply screwed up and didn’t follow his game plan, it happens.

    The F-22 is not the second coming- its a man made machine. It can lose, just like every other machine. In fact, at the F-22 WIC, the chief F-22 instructor told me “over here they loose all the time.” since they train to a MUCH higher standard at the Weapons School.

    Probably, since the T-38 s only used to really train in WVR fights, the F-22 pilot probably didn’t see him. T-38 is a small jet.

    Other things to consider, we don’t know the circumstance of this fight- or even if its a valid shot. So i wouldn’t draw any conclusions for a 30 second vid, that we don’t even know how it was edited. It could simply be that the F-22 had called to knock it off prior to shot due to a training rule violation as was the case with the infamous F/A-18 HUD footage.

  12. Liam 21 April, 2009 at 4:24 am #

    Perhaps Pierre Sprey’s right after all cheap light fighters have a place in the inventory. I bet a Tigershark would have made an even better job of the engagement.

  13. HerkEng 21 April, 2009 at 5:26 am #

    This gives hope to the HESA Saeqeh…well, they can dream.

  14. Sven Ortmann 21 April, 2009 at 12:07 pm #

    F-22 invincible!

    F-16 shot down F-22! (As if that wasn’t to be expected.)

    EA-18G shot down F-22! (As if that wasn’t to be expected.)

    T-38 shot down F-22! (As if that wasn’t to be expected.)

    It’s still this same invincibility hype, as if these were exceptions that prove the rule.
    The F-22 is just a fighter. A newer, heavier and more expensive one, but still a fighter. Shit happens. All the time.

    I recall a report about the A6M Rei-sen fighter. Sometime in 1940 it had a 99:0 kill ratio over China. It appeared to be invincible.
    Two years later the small Rei-sen force was completely overstretched in the pacific war and one more year later it was rolled over by newer fighters selected to exploit the A6M’s weaknesses and to circumvent its strengths with tactics.
    One more year later it was little more than a target for enemy fighters and in the last year of the war it was only good for crashing itself with a bomb onto ships.

    So seriously, get back to reality, open your eyes and accept that there’s no invisibility cloak silver bullet fighter. It’s just a new, heavy and expensive fighter that will have favourable exchange ratios as long as its strengths (already public for 18 years) won’t be countered (I know more than a dozen ways how to do so, you can bet that adversaries know even more).

  15. f5driver 21 April, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    It seems to be a 2v1 ACM scenario (2 T-38s vs 1 F22).

    The F22 was calling out tally 1 only, whilst the T38 called out tally visual.

    F22 was probably shot by the unseen guy. tough luck!

  16. Craig Hoyle 21 April, 2009 at 4:15 pm #

    This clearly isn’t a full-on engagement. The early part of the video shows the T-38 pulling a maximum of about 5.5g on the HUD display, and the “kill” is achieved while only pulling about 3.
    As bobbymike suggests, this could be one of the USAF’s “creamie” Raptor jocks going up against experienced adversaries, and it just underlines why you don’t want to get closer to things than BVR range, whatever you’re flying.
    It’s interesting that this video has emerged now – is someone trying to validate the cancellation decision maybe?!

  17. em745 21 April, 2009 at 7:08 pm #

    Doesn’t anyone find it strange that the T-38′s pipper has little problem beeping whenever it lands on the F-22? Contrast that with RAAF’s Stephen Chappell famous quote: “I can’t see the [expletive deleted] thing. It won’t let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me.”

    And at the end why didn’t the F-22 simply just break hard into the vertical? Both planes were doing less than 350 knots, so surely that wouldn’t have been so hard to do (g-load-wise).

    Either this F-22 pilot was VERY “green” or…

    Without knowing the exact ROE, this video proves little.

  18. Gunny Perdue 21 April, 2009 at 8:27 pm #

    That my friends was a Duck Turn… I doubt very seriously that the event was anything more than a tracking exercise…. nothing over 4g… easy left turn through west…. all this talk about ‘How could this have happened…’ I’ve done plenty of those exercises for students and before a real BFM engagement… this is NOT a real BFM engagement…. they aren’t even breathing hard… a tracking shot like that is very near impossible against a maneuvering target…. relax… it’s just a tape… it doesn’t prove a thing….

  19. Obamanite 22 April, 2009 at 12:00 am #


    I think you are exactly right. A very gentle left turn at no more than 4g, a piper that stays on a Raptor that is making ABSOLUTELY NO ATTEMPT to reverse his turn for MORE THAN 10 SECONDS. It is highly amusing to watch, and it doesn’t mean that a T-38/F-5 type aircraft could never get a legit shot at a Raptor, but this is certainly “NOT a real BFM engagement.”

    That said, “quantity has a quality of its own.” If the sh!t really did hit the fan one day, I could easily see the F-22 becoming something of a modern Me 262. Assuming we could deploy even a couple of squadrons(approx 40 aircraft) to a hypothetical theater on short notice, how many sorties could be generated considering what appear to be the Raptor’s abysmal readiness rates? And how relatively easily could a shrewd enemy throw up everything and the kitchen sink at a “silver bullet” Raptor force and completely overwhelm it through sheer numbers of utterly unsophisticated but highly maneuverable, small fighters (son-of-Mig-21 or F-5)? Again, as much as I do think the Raptor is a marvel, it is not a miracle, nor can it perform them, and math is math. The more I think about it, the more I am tending to agree with Pierre Sprey, however specious and disingenuous some of his arguments may be. It was, after all, largely thanks to him that arguably the most successful fighter jet of the modern era was designed, the F-16…

    I have often thought of the way the US has been designing and building fighter planes over the past few decades to a sort of “runaway greenhouse effect,” in this case a “runaway complexity and cost effect.” I mean, really, think about it: to take more than 20 years to bring a design from concept to IOC is absolutely friggin’ ridiculous. And then for each of those planes to cost some $350 million each after factoring R&D costs is… ABSOLUTELY FRIGGIN’ RIDICULOUS! This cannot keep happening and it absolutely, positively has got to stop. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: break up the LM and Boeing behemoths, create a bunch of boutique design houses modeled after Skunk Works, and go about designing and building aircraft the way the U-2, SR-71 and F-117 were designed and built: quick and dirty but to spectacular results. Accept and, in fact, encourage high risk: if the program fails, you’re not talking about a $300 billion program as with JSF, but maybe hundreds of millions lost, which considering how much was sunk into A-12, Comanche and the V-22, which should have died loooong ago when Cheney still had all his marbles and canceled that gold-plated POS, is chump change. But that investment would not really be lost for all the lessons learned and all the ingenuity it would foment. Turn the clock back to what the US defense industry was doing in the 1950s, what must now be thought of as the golden age of US aeronautical engineering (thanks, in no small part, to a bunch of brilliant Germans we appropriated). May the Raptor forever be known henceforth as the brilliant and monstrous result of a system gone utterly, Frankenstein mad…

    I mean, whatever happened to Occam’s razor?

  20. Phil 22 April, 2009 at 4:45 am #

    em745, the reason you hear a beeping when the pipper is on the F-22 is because the T-38 pilot is pulling the trigger. You can see the simulated bullet counter in the lower left counting down when the beeping occurs.

    The T-38 has no radar at all, its gunsight simply uses the INS to display the projected bullet path based on G and attitude.

    That type of gun HUD symbology (LCOS) uses the pipper circle as a “range clock” — the closer to the target, the less of the circle is drawn. As you can see, the circle is completely solid, because there is no lockon.

  21. em745 22 April, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    Thx Phil. My bad. I suppose in the end that if this video proves anything, it’s that now matter how technologically advanced fighter platforms become, leaving a gun out of the design should never be an option.

  22. RenanZ 22 April, 2009 at 5:36 pm #

    MAn, if the F-22 been shot down by a T-38, imagine with the F-5M’s from Brazil or the updated F-5 from Iran !??!?!?!?

  23. liz 2 May, 2009 at 12:22 am #

    I’m not sure how Lt Col Lloyd Addison would know. He’s at Hill and according to my husband this is a Laughlin unit. And I think he’d know, as it “happened” (actually didn’t happen) here at Holloman.

  24. Kareem Szczurek 12 January, 2010 at 4:41 am #

    I was surfing around for more information on this topic this evening when I discovered your really useful article…thanks a lot for sharing. I will definitely be keeping an eye on your blog and visiting again to read new articles.BTW since when have you been keeping a blog? :)

  25. Captain Bonnet 11 March, 2010 at 8:34 am #

    An 11 Sqn RAF Typhoon managed a Raptor kill a year of so back, got on his tail and the Raptor wasn’t able to shake him off. Raptor pilot said he was “lucky” so they did it the next day, same result!

  26. tanie pozycjonowanie 28 June, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    Super site, and niec text.

  27. karl2m 17 July, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    @bobbymike: state your sources, or else don’t waste our time will you?

  28. Carroll B. Merriman 22 July, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

  29. Cairns Accommodation 9 September, 2010 at 5:19 am #

    Not exactly my view, but it makes sense. I’d rather just not bother at all actually

  30. Tony C 2 November, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    I would say the T-38 pilot was lucky more than skillful. Thanks for the video.

  31. Andrew 16 November, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    That is pretty good flying. I do agree that its down to the experience of the pilot, and the video isn’t long enough for us to get an idea of the bigger picture. Pretty impressive though if its true the T-38 is just a small jet after all.

  32. She wont go to jail but she should claim chapter 7 and get a lawyer soon. Also she needs to get some sort of job.

  33. cairns girl 20 March, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    Sounds like a top gun manouver. I hear they are hiring for experience pilots for Virgin Blue may just be a safer option

  34. Barry Lumsden 7 June, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    Unfortunately the YouTube video would not work, maybe because it’s old now.

    Your post provided good enough information though & thanks to “Lightndattic” for the link to the video.

    I agree with Tony that there was some luck envolved with the T-38 pilot.

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