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Middle East , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft

U.S. General Claims Russia has Obtained a 'Treasure Trove' of Data on the F-22 Raptor; Have Operations in Syria Compromised America's Most Capable Fighter?

January 06th - 2018

In service since 2005, the F-22 Raptor remains the most advanced fighter in U.S. service and has been critical to guaranteeing continued parity in aerial warfare. The fighter was for a long time the only fifth generation air superiority fighter in service anywhere in the world, which changed only with China's induction of the J-20 in early 2017. The Raptor remains an essential asset to the U.S. Air Force, particularly in light of rival Russian and Chinese fifth generation fighter programs and induction of high performance 4+ generation fighters in large numbers - platforms which only the F-22 can hope to match. Given the Raptor's importance, recent reports that the fighter's ability to counter such near peer threats may be have been compromised by recent operations in proximity to Russian forces in Syria and Iraq could have significant implications for the U.S. Air Force's ability to contest air superiority.

According to a U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. VeraLinn Jamieson, the F-22's operations in Syria have given Russian forces an invaluable opportunity to observe and learn about how the Raptor operates. The General stated: "The skies over Iraq and specifically Syria have really just been a treasure trove for them to see how we operate. Our adversaries are watching us, they're learning from us." Jamieson continued: "Russian has gained invaluable insights and information with operating in a contested airspace alongside of us in Syria."

Referring to encounters between Russian and U.S. fighters, Russian Aerospace Forces Maj. Maksim Makolin stated: "When meeting our partners from the Western coalition in the air, we always found ourselves ‘on their tails' as the pilots say, which means victory in a dogfight." With Russia's most advanced air superiority platforms deployed to Syria, the Su-35 and Su-30, these fighters have had several close encounters with U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors over Syrian airspace. U.S. and Russian aircraft have relied heavily on deconfliction communications lines to avoid any miscalculations.

Russian forces could have potentially benefitted both from observing classified flying tactics used by the Raptors and by 'painting' the fighters with their radars and exploring the limits of their stealth capabilities. This opportunity also applied to U.S. and Western bloc forces however, which gained the opportunity to observe how Russia's air force operates." The capabilities of Russia's Su-35 and Su-30 air superiority fighters are hardly a well keep secret however, with both being based on the Su-27 which was acquired and closely studied by the U.S. Military. Unlike the U.S. however, Russia's next generation air superiority fighter equivalent to the F-22, the Su-57, has yet to enter service and is set to be inducted in late 2018. This platform is highly unlikely to be deployed for operations in Syria for the foreseeable future - and its capabilities will remain a well kept secret. The U.S. could as a result find its Raptor compromised while it itself maintains no information on Russia's own foremost platform. Indeed deploying the F-22 to Syria, a theatre where the platform is arguably not needed considering the nature of the adversary, land based insurgent groups, could well prove to have been a serious mistake.

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