2014-11-21 Although the F-22 and F-35 have flown together previously, now training to bring together the core competencies of the two systems into a coherent combat force has begun.
As the former head of the Air Combat Command put it in an interview with Second Line of Defense:
People focus on stealth as the determining factor or delineator of the fifth generation, it isn’t, it’s fusion. Fusion is what makes that platform so fundamentally different than anything else. And that’s why if anybody tries to tell you hey, I got a 4.5 airplane, a 4.8 airplane, don’t believe them. All that they’re talking about is RCS (Radar Cross Section).
Fusion is the fundamental delineator.
And you’re not going to put fusion into a fourth gen airplane because their avionic suites are not set up to be a fused platform. And fusion changes how you use the platform.
What I figured out is I would tell my Raptors, I don’t want a single airplane firing a single piece of ordinance until every other fourth gen airplane is Winchester. Because the SA right now that the fifth gen has is such a leveraging capability that I want my tactics set up to where my fourth gen expend their ordinance using the SA that the fifth gen provides, the fifth gen could then mop up, and then protect everybody coming in the next wave.
It’s radically changing how we fight on the battlefield.….
Question: One of the concepts we’ve played with was what we called the S Cubed, which is the tradeoffs between sensors, stealth, and speed. And how you played them off against one another. Does that make sense?
General Hostage: It does. I think an excellent portrayal of the value of looking at the interaction of those parameters is to examine Raptor versus the Lightning. A Raptor at 50-plus thousand feet at Mach 2 with its RCS has a different level of invulnerability than a Lightning at 35,000 at Mach .9 and it’s RCS.
The altitude, speed, and stealth combined in the two platforms, they give the airplanes two completely different levels of capability. The plan is to normalize the Lightning’s capability relative to the Raptor by marrying it up with six, or seven, or eight other Lightnings.
The advanced fusion of the F-35 versus the F-22 means those airplanes have an equal level or better level of invulnerability than the Raptors have, but it takes multiple airplanes to do it because of the synergistic fused attacks of their weapon systems.
And that’s the magic of the fifth gen F-35, but it takes numbers of F-35s to get that effect, that’s why I’ve been so strident on getting the full buy. Because if they whittle it down to a little tiny fleet like the Raptor, it’s not going to be compelling…..
The Raptor brings a significant force protection capability to an overall air combat force, as seen in the operations over Syria and Iraq. And the Raptor has trained with legacy aircraft like the Eurofighter and with the SA which the Raptor brings to the fight, according to an RAF pilot involved in Typhoon-Raptor exercises, “the F-22 enhances the lethality and surviability of Typhoon.”
Now two SA platforms are being brought together and in the case of the F-35 the fusion systems are even more advanced than the Raptor.
As Ed Timperlake argues in a forthcoming Special Report on the F-35 and Tron Warfare:
21st century warfare technologies concepts of operations and tactics and training are in evolution and revolution. At the heart of reshaping US and allied approaches to airpower and its evolution is the emergence of the F-35, the significant impact which a global fleet of F-35s will have on US and allied capabilities and the approaches to leveraging other capabilities in the warfighting tool kit.
There is always the reactive enemy, so that the roll out of new approaches shaped by the impact of the F-35 will see reactions from various competitors and responding to these reactions will part of the re-set of evolving US and allied airpower and combat approaches.
The F-35 is at the heart of change for a very simple reason – it is a revolutionary platform, and when considered in terms of its fleet impact even more so. The F-35, Lightning II, has a revolutionary sensor fusion cockpit that makes it effective in AA, AG and EW. US and Allied Combat pilots will evolve and share new tactics and training, and over time this will drive changes that leaders must make for effective command and control to fight future battles.
According to a Press Release published by the 33rd Fighter Wing on 11/18/14 which highlights the joint training event:
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The U.S. Air Force deployed four F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, to Eglin Air Force Base, earlier this month for the unit’s first operational integration training mission with the F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing here.
The purpose of the training was to improve integrated employment of fifth-generation assets and tactics. The training allowed both units to gain operational familiarization and capture lessons learned to improve future exercises.
“When the F-22 and F-35 come together, it brings out the strength of both airplanes,” said Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger, F-35 pilot and 58th Fighter Squadron commander. “The F-22 was built to be an air-to-air superiority fighter and the F-35 was built to be a strike fighter. These airplanes complement each other and we’re trying to learn how to take that from a design perspective into a tactical arena and be the most effective combat team we can be working with the F-22s.”
The F-35s and F-22s flew offensive counter air, defensive counter air and interdiction missions together, exploring ways to maximize their fifth-generation capabilities.
“The missions started with basic air-to-air and surface attacks,” said Maj. Steven Frodsham, F-22 pilot and 149th Fighter Squadron, Virginia Air National Guard, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. “As the training progressed, the missions developed into more advanced escort and defensive counter air fifth-generation integration missions.”
The Air Force recently employed fifth-generation combat airpower for the first time against the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant during the most recent joint coalition campaign. The ground strike was the F-22 Raptor’s combat debut, demonstrating the decisive impact fifth-generation capabilities bring to real-world scenarios.
Like the F-35, the F-22 brings an unrivaled stealth capability to the fight. However, as seen in the recent employment in Syria, it’s the aircraft’s ability to provide heightened situational awareness to other aircraft through the platform’s integrated avionics and fused sensors – often referred to as “fusion” – that makes all the aircraft in the strike package more lethal and survivable, maximizing the full capabilities of airpower.
“Fusion and stealth – those are the two things that fifth-generation aircraft bring to the fight,” said Renbarger. “It’s all of those sensors coming in to give me that fused battle picture that I have displayed in my cockpit along with fifth-generation stealth that enables me to go undetected into the battlefield with that high situational awareness to do what I need to do for the fight.”
The F-22 sparked the Air Force’s fourth-to-fifth generation integration efforts. Now that the F-35 program is moving closer to its initial operational capability, it too can begin to integrate with the fourth-generation systems as well as its fifth-generation F-22 counterpart.
“The F-22 and F-35 squadrons integrated very well,” said Frodsham. “The lessons learned and tactics developed from this training opportunity will help to form the foundation for future growth in our combined fifth-generation fighter tactics.
Oh by the way — the F-35s which will work with F-22s in future combat operations can come from either the seabase or from landbases enhancing the flexibility of the imapct of the F-22 itself, whether the ship is a large deck carrier, a UK carrier, an Italian, Australian or USN amphibious ship.
The F-22 will not care as the data and support comes its way and it can, in turn lend support, to the F35-enabled sea base force.
Editor’s Note: For our interview with Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger see the following: