Two US F-22 stealth fighter jets intercepted Russian Su-25 and Su-35 jets that crossed into the US’s area of operation over Syria on Wednesday, and it highlights a downside to the US’s top fighter jets.
The F-22, with its incredible acrobatic abilities in air and all-aspect stealth cloaking it from enemies at a distance, is the US’s most lethal combat plane.
While the F-35 has been built as a flying quarterback that can dogfight, bomb ground targets, gather intelligence, or conduct surveillance, the F-22 specializes in one thing: air-to-air combat.
But with today’s rules of engagement, the F-22’s huge advantages in stealth mean little.
During an intercept, a jet pulls up next to the plane that has invaded its airspace and tells the plane via radio some version of “turn around or this will escalate.”
At this time, it’s customary for the jet to tilt its wings and show the intruding adversary a wing full of missiles. But the F-22 can never do that. Because of its stealth design, the F-22 stores all missiles and bombs internally.
A pilot intruding into US or US-protected airspace and meeting an F-22 really has no idea whether the jet is armed. And the Russian Su-35 holds more missiles than the F-22, and it holds them where everyone can see.
On top of that, if a routine interception were to turn kinetic, the F-22 would start the battle at a huge disadvantage.