Wired's Danger Room has an interesting post on how German fighter pilots say they managed to successfully engage and counter the near-mythical capabilities of the Air Force's $400 million (or $200 million, depending) a copy, super duper, stealth fighter plane the F-22 Raptor in recent mock combat.
In mid-June, 150 German airmen and eight twin-engine, non-stealthy Typhoons arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska for an American-led Red Flag exercise involving more than 100 aircraft from Germany, the U.S. Air Force and Army, NATO, Japan, Australia and Poland. Eight times during the two-week war game, individual German Typhoons flew against single F-22s in basic fighter maneuvers meant to simulate a close-range dogfight.
The results were a surprise to the Germans and presumably the Americans, too. “We were evenly matched,” Maj. Marc Gruene told Combat Aircraft’s Jamie Hunter. The key, Gruene said, is to get as close as possible to the F-22 … and stay there. “They didn’t expect us to turn so aggressively.”
Gruene said the Raptor excels at fighting from beyond visual range with its high speed and altitude, sophisticated radar and long-range AMRAAM missiles. But in a slower, close-range tangle — which pilots call a “merge” — the bigger and heavier F-22 is at a disadvantage. “As soon as you get to the merge … the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22,” Gruene said.
This isn't the first time the Raptor has been rendered less than invincible in mock combat. As far back as 2007 an F-16 got in for a kill.
In Air Force and Lockheed marketing no adversary will ever get close too a Raptor, certainly not get in a position to fire a heat seeking missile up the F-22's exhaust. With all of its advanced radards and other electronic warfare aids Raptor pilots are supposed to be able to kill their prey many miles away. That, of course, assumes the vaunted AMRAAM missiles work. One weapons tester told once told this reporter they work just fine as long as the weather is clear and the target doesn't do any radical maneuvers to evade the missile.
Then there's the question of what happens when a handful of Raptors get up against a much larger group of technologically outdated planes. Ten-to-one odds anyone? Five-to-one?