Air Force is engaged in Libya right now and it is using mostly older aircraft
like the F-15E to do the heavy fighting and ground attacks. The B-2 stealth
bomber was employed though and in many hostile airspace operations the B-2 would
have been accompanied by the F-22 Raptor, the most capable air superiority
fighter in the USAF arsenal.
However, in Libyan operations the B-2's have apparently flown on a mission without the help from the F-22. Air Force
Times reports that the reason the F-22 wasn't sent along with three B-2
bombers that bombed targets in Libya was a combination of the lack of need and
the limitations of the F-22.
A flight of three B-2 bombers left Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to make
bombing runs in Libya on March 20. Generally, Air Force doctrine would have the
B-2s fly with F-22s for protection from enemy fighters. The Air Force
Times reports that USAF Maj. Eric Hilliard, spokesman for Africa
Command said, "I see no indication that F-22s were used as an escort for
the B-2 nor do I see anything that indicates the Raptor will be used in future
missions over Libya."
Analyst Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis on
Washington said, "Frankly, they [F-22s] might not be needed. Libya’s
defenses were not that robust to begin with and were rolled back quite
Other than the F-22s not being needed, perhaps a more telling reason was that
the limited capabilities of the Libyan air force have kept the vaunted fighter on the
sidelines. Libya fields mostly older fighters and the F-22's performance and
capabilities weren’t needed. The F-22 also has a very limited capability to
communicate with other coalition aircraft operating in Libya by design. Radio
emission from data links that would enable the Raptor to communicate with other
fighters would also potentially give the position of the stealthy F-22 away.
Analyst Loren Thompson from the Lexington Institute said, "The designers
of the F-22 had a dilemma, which is whether to have the connectivity that would
allow versatility or to have the radio silence that would facilitate
stealthiest. What they opted for was a limited set of tactical data
The F-22 as it is now can only communicate with other F-22's via a data links
during flights. Other than the communications issue, the F-22 also has limited
capability to hit ground targets. This is to be expected in an air superiority
fighter. The F-22 is capable of carrying a pair of 1,000-pound Joint Direct
Attack Munitions guided by GPS. It’s can't carry the 250-pound Small Diameter
Bombs that the F-15E Strike Eagle and other aircraft can use. The F-22 also lacks
that ability to create synthetic aperture maps of the earth surface that are
used to select ground targets.
There were plans to add the ability of the F-22 to use the Multifunction
Advanced Data-link the F-35 will use, but the finding for that program was
pulled last year. That capability would have come in the Increment 3.2 software
update for the F-22 and would have also added the ability for the F-22 to
target eight ground targets at once.
the Senate also pulled funding for additional F-22 fighters.