Why no F-22s over Libya?

Photo: US Air Force

In 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.


21 Responses to Why no F-22s over Libya?

  1. Alex 20 March, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Ignorant question: Are there any F-22s assigned to the carrier or the other US forces in the region to begin with?

  2. Stephen Trimble 20 March, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    I can safely rule out carrier-basing for the F-22. There are no F-22s based permanently outside of the US (including Hawaii and Alaska). If F-22s have been moved into the region, they have not been spotted making the transit, as far as I’m aware anyway.

  3. Nied 20 March, 2011 at 11:34 pm #

    I think that’s part of the issue. The NFZ evolved so quickly that there really wasn’t much time to deploy anything into the area. We appear to be launching sorties from the home bases of the various squadrons much like we did in Kosovo. I imagine if USAFE had a Raptor squadron they’d be participating in some way.

  4. ELP 21 March, 2011 at 12:00 am #

    “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.”

    It isn’t just the SAR mapping mode and other things for the A2G mode, it is the relationship between the APG-77 and the AN/ALR-94 which alerts you to the bearing,prediced distance of the emitter and predicted classification type of the emitter. With that, then when you get close the APG-77 clarifies this.
    Even with that, the big “threat” if you want to call it that is the SA-5 which are not mobile, They are fixed and known positions. Which JDAM and the F-22 should be able to handle.

  5. BDF 21 March, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    As Nied said I don’t think there was sufficient time to deploy assets to the theater (or at least there was insufficient time from an executive decision to combat ops to deploy). Notice other than the B-2s that all US combat forces came from units already deployed to SW Asia.

    Also I believe you’re (somewhat) incorrect about the F-22’s current capabilities. All of 1st FW’s F-22s are block 35 jets; i.e. increment 3.1+ hardware enabled. AvWeed’s Fulgham is reporting that the 1st’s jets are getting the increment 3.1 kits installed but I haven’t heard if that current package has IOCed yet. Increment 3.1 enables SAR modes for self-designation of JDAM and SDB attacks among other improvements.

  6. lik 21 March, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    EA-18G Growlers were spotted at Aviano. Any idea where they came from?

  7. aeroxavier 21 March, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    one simple reason, he just was one propaganda plane.
    In libya you have foreign plane who can catch this “furtive” aircraft, and the f-22 isn’t one operational plane.
    but s*ut up, don’t destroy the myth of the superiority of 5th gen over 4th gen, because f-35 was not here

  8. Phaid 21 March, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

    The EA-18Gs at Aviano are from VAQ-132 Scorpions. As seen in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_tU6uWtPJQ&feature=player_embedded

  9. Mark Brueschke 21 March, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Also, why no Eurofighter Typhoons?

    Rafale is the most advanced strike fighter to be deployed so far.

  10. Banner man 21 March, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    Typhoons flew missions last night apparently.
    CAP only.

  11. Znapel 22 March, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    It’s probably not as big a deal as people make it…. Replace F-22 with F-15C. Same question applies, but no one really cares. Was air supremacy ever a real concern? At this point in time, that’s what you use an F-22 for…

  12. aeroxavier 22 March, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    normal he can only make that for the moment

  13. J. DeGregoria 22 March, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    Anearly comment says no F 22′s are deployed over seas? Not true. The 49th from Holloman AFB,NM has most of their 22′s on Okinawa and some in Australia and New Zeland. They are busy!

  14. lik 23 March, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    EA-18G Growlers seen in Italy were redeployed from Iraq.

  15. Analyst 24 March, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    The probable reason is that some allies have ESM suit which can analyse radar and communications war modes of F22, including the British or the French (including Rafale).
    It would be counter productive to take even a small risk that some better ECM systems which embed some counter F22 software could be sold abroad.
    F22 is a silver bullet deserved for China, not for a second rate operation where nobody needs it.
    Moreover a failure (see F15 exemple) could happen to a F22 (remember F117 in ex Yugoslavia) and nobody want some part sold to Chineses.

  16. Analyst 25 March, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    It seems that Rafale was the first to enter Libya for reconnaissance and strike or air superiority, without preliminary SEAD, whatever at low or medium/high altitude.
    It would be quite interesting to know return of experience concerning this plane, and how efficient was this plane and especially its radar geolocation capabilities and ECM, or its use of AASM and networking.
    For now, it seems it is the most potent fighter bomber on the theater due to those abilities, that F35 will provide next (plus stealth of course).

  17. Znapel 25 March, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    Well, AvWeek is saying the reasons was simply timing. From the resolution passing Thursday night to bombs out on Saturday morning, mostly European assets were used.

    “Because of the speed upon which the operations came together with our coalition partners, [the JTF] needed to look realistically at the fighter assets already within Europe to execute operations. Because there are no F-22 Raptors based in the European theater, they were not included in the initial stages of the operation.”

    “The formulation of Operation Odyssey Dawn air component was extremely successful, with the aggressive timeline from the U.N. Security Council Resolution to the first operational sorties, to where we are today.”

    Attribution only given as “US Joint Task Force for Libya ops via 17th AF”

  18. John 27 March, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

    F22 has nothing to do over Gaddafi’s home. What’s interesting is to see Rafales opening the skies over libya with recce pods, scanning everything with the spectra suite (french MoD reports “planes illuminated by Sam radars”) and a few hours later, you have massive and precise air strikes on those Sam sites…

  19. RSF 2 April, 2011 at 5:45 am #

    My suspicion is that this was a political decision and not really all of the above.

    How would it look to have Raptors in combat as the F-22 production line is shut down later this month?

  20. saberhagen 5 April, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    tell why one reason why the US needs to deploy a air supremacy fighter when the Lybian pathetic AF virtually does not exist and the US itself is trying from the very first moment to get out and let the NATO take over the task?

    Oh, and dont forget the ‘good friend’ French would definately take that chance to collect everything they can from operating along side F-22. Consider what they did with F-117A, I’d say it is wise to let your asset stay away from French, as far as possible

  21. aeroxavier 8 April, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    just wait the f-35 (in europe) and first training with others mature aircraft, to know why i say the f-22 was just one propaganda of the presumed superiority of USA.

    Imagine now, the f-22 wasn’t furtive, you have the reponse of many question and you don’t search stupid comment like why air superiority in one NFZ (remmeber before air to ground operation…)
    why no f-22 in europe?
    why no f-22 make exercice with others aircraft (with all capability, furtive they says?)
    why no f-22 was engaged (you are going to say like the pentagon, “we use it against iran and Nkorea, because they have one excellent aircraft inventory….”)

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