The F-22 Raptor was touted as the "best air-to-air fighter ever produced" by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, but the fighter jets – which cost $400 million apiece – were subject to a reality check during war games at the Eielson Air Force base outside of Fairbanks in mid-June, Wired reports.
More than 100 aircraft from Germany, Japan, Australia, Poland, NATO and the U.S. Air Force participated in the two-week simulation. Eight times during the war games, German Typhoons flew against single F-22s in basic flight maneuvers simulating close-range combat. The results were surprising.
They found that the F-22, which Gates once said was supposed to "ensure U.S. command of the skies for the next generation," was in fact evenly matched against the German Typhoons. While the F-22s excelled at fighting from beyond visual range, thanks to their sophisticated radar and long-range missiles, close-range combat was a different story. The F-22 is bigger and heavier than the German Typhoon, putting it at a disadvantage. German pilots defeated the F-22s at close-range; they have outlined their tactics in the latest Combat Aircraft magazine.
These are not the only problems the F-22 faces: there have been dozens of reports of pilot blackouts, a possible crash, and problems reportedly related to the unique G-force-defying vests worn by the pilots.
The F-22 Raptor may be called the best air-to-air-fighter "unquestionably", as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz wrote in 2009. But the war games raised new questions about the troubled fighter jet.