Much has been made of recent encounters in Alaska between the US Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and German Luftwaffe's Eurofighter Typhoons a couple of months ago on other sites/news outlets. From what I can tell, it seems no one really tried to ask the US Air Force side how well they did--it all comes from the German side.
A 1st Fighter Wing F-22 Raptor lands in Kadena, Japan, July 28, USAF photo
However, I was there for the Luftwaffe's visit to Alaska. The following is an excerpt from my article. And, I did contact the USAF--the two sides tell somewhat differing stories. But then that's not really that unexpected.
A Eurofighter over the mountains--EADS photo
As part of the Distant Frontier exercise, F-22s from the USAF's 525th Fighter Squadron faced off against the German fighters in visual-range basic fighter manoeuvres (BFM) combat training.
While Grune does not directly say that the Eurofighters emerged as the overall victors, he strongly implies it.
"I put out some whiskey. If they come back with some good performances, and if you know what the goal is from a BFM setup, and you achieve that, then I will pay you whiskey," he says. "And I paid quite a lot of whiskey."
That account, however, is strongly disputed by USAF sources flying the F-22. "It sounds as though we have very different recollections as to the outcomes of the BFM engagements that were fought," one Raptor pilot says.
USAF sources say that the Typhoon has good energy and a pretty good first turn, but that they were able to outmanoeuvre the Germans due to the Raptor's thrust vectoring. Additionally, the Typhoon was not able to match the high angle of attack capability of the F-22. "We ended up with numerous gunshots," another USAF pilot says.
A USAF F-22 Raptor from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Va., lands at Kadena, Japan, July 28, USAF Photo
Regardless of their differing accounts, the USAF was grateful for the chance to train with the Luftwaffe. "We optimise the opportunities we get to participate in dissimilar air combat training, as those opportunities are all too rare," says Lt Col Paul Moga, commander of the 525th Fighter Squadron. "Our recent BFM hops with the German air force Typhoons were outstanding. While certain uncontrollable factors such as weather and manoeuvring limitations did not allow for full-up engagements, it is suffice to say that there was much learning across the board. The details of each set-up are privy only to the pilots that flew them, as that is the sacred standard among fighter pilots. One thing is for certain - Raptors and Typhoons are a lethal combination."
Grune says that the Raptor's advantage lies in its stealth and ability to dominate air-to-air fights from beyond visual range. That is not disputed by USAF sources.
"Its unique capabilities are overwhelming from our first impressions in terms of modern air combat," Pfeiffer says. "But once you get to the merge, which is only a very small spectrum of air combat, in that area the Typhoon doesn't have to fear the F-22 in all aspects."
The Typhoons were stripped of their external fuel tanks and slicked off as much as possible before the encounter with the Raptors, says Grune, who adds that in that configuration, the Typhoon is an "animal".
Pfeiffer notes that the Eurofighter has better acceleration and can out-climb the F-22. Additionally, he says that the Raptor sinks when it is using its thrust vectoring capabilities, although one USAF source says he is skeptical of the German claims.
Overall, Grune says the two aircraft are closely matched in the visual range arena, but Pfeiffer says the Typhoon is the superior dogfighter.
A few weeks after I returned from Alaska, I touched base with the 3rd Wing again. "I did review the HUD footage, a lot of gun shots from the F-22's to the Eurofighters and not a whole lot coming back," one Raptor pilot told me.