Photo: US Air ForceIn the attacks on Libya since 19 March, the US Air Force says as of about 1pm EDT today it has contributed three Northrop Grumman B-2s, four Boeing F-15Es and eight Lockheed Martin F-16CJs.
Where are the F-22s?
It's a fair question to ask since Gen Norton Schwartz, USAF chief of staff, told Congress on 17 March that he expected the F-22s to be employed in the early days of what was then a hypothetical operation.
There may be several reasons for the no-show by the world's most expensive fighter, which has yet to be employed in anger despite entering service six years ago.
It's possible that Schwartz was bluffing or simply trying to appease his questioner, who in this case happened to be Sen Saxby Chambliss, an F-22 champion from Georgia.
Or it's possible that the old adage to not bring a knife to a gun fight works in reverse. As in, don't bring an F-22 to a fight when you have B-2s, F-15s, F-16s, Tomahawks and a host of coalition aircraft, and they seem to be doing the job just fine.
It's also possible that the Libya war comes a year too early for the Raptor. True, the F-22 fleet can drop two joint direct attack munitions or eight small diameter bombs. However, six years after declaring initial operational capability, the F-22 is still waiting for a radar that picks up targets on the ground. The air-to-ground mode for the Northrop Grumman APG-77 radar is nearing the end of a long testing phase, and retrofits for the fleet should start at the end of this year. Until then, the F-22's primary targeting sensor is effectively blind to ground targets after the aircraft takes off.
The F-22's absence in the first combat operation launched after IOC is a question the air force needs to answer, or some people undoubtedly will start complaining about the F-22 program's $62 billion price tag -- again.