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    Stealth And Cunning: Remembering The F-22 Raptor’s Covert Protection Of A Predator Drone From Iranian F-4 Phantoms

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    Fighter Aircraft takes off from Konya Airport
    Fighter Aircraft takes off from Konya Airport

    About Ten years ago, two F-4 Phantom II fighter jets belonging to the Iranian Air Force, which had been in use since the 1960s, were sent to intercept a U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator drone.

    F-22 Raptor Jet Airplane flying at 2015 Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, California
    F-22 Raptor Jet Airplane flying at 2015 Planes of Fame Air Show in Chino, California

    However, they were unexpectedly intercepted by an F-22 Raptor.

    KONYA, TURKIYE - MAY 09, 2023: Turkish Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II (5009) landing to Konya Airport during Anatolian Eagle Air Force Exercise
    KONYA, TURKIYE – MAY 09, 2023: Turkish Air Force McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II (5009) landing to Konya Airport during Anatolian Eagle Air Force Exercise

    During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Tehran heavily invested in its domestic manufacturing capabilities.

    Airplane F-4 Phantom jet fighter flying at 2016 Miramar Air Show in San Diego
    Airplane F-4 Phantom jet fighter flying at 2016 Miramar Air Show in San Diego

    Iran tasked engineers with reverse engineering and developing components for fighter jets, including the Phantom.

    McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter jet plane
    McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter jet plane

    To maintain its rapidly aging fleet, Iran relies on domestically produced parts such as glide weapons, improvised electric components, and anti-ship missiles.

    F-22 Raptor Demo Team
    F-22 Raptor Demo Team

    With only 186 operational airframes produced before the termination of its production in 2011, the F-22 has become a prized yet limited asset of the US Air Force.

    Singapore - Feb 12, 2020. USAF Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor flying for display in Changi, Singapore. Defense costs are increasing, especially in East Asia.
    Singapore – Feb 12, 2020. USAF Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor flying for display in Changi, Singapore. Defense costs are increasing, especially in East Asia.

    “Now the United States faces concerns about its dwindling fleet of F-22 Raptors that were once intended to replace the F-15 outright,” Alex Hollings wrote for Business Insider.

    Singapore - Feb 10, 2018. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor aircraft belong to the US Air Force sits on display in Changi, Singapore.
    Singapore – Feb 10, 2018. Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor aircraft belong to the US Air Force sits on display in Changi, Singapore.

    “Only around 130 of those 186 delivered F-22s were ever operational, and today the number of combat-ready F-22s is likely in the double digits.”

    F-22 Raptor in Fairford
    F-22 Raptor in Fairford

    “But America needs an air superiority fighter that can stand and swing with the best in the world,” Hollings wrote, “and as capable as the F-15EX II may be, it lacks the stealth it would need to survive an open war with a nation like China or Russia.”

    Jet Stealth Fighter F-22 Raptor flying at 2015 Planes of Fame Air Show
    Jet Stealth Fighter F-22 Raptor flying at 2015 Planes of Fame Air Show

    “In a report submitted to Congress in 2017, it was estimated that restarting F-22 production would cost the United States $50 billion just to procure 194 more fighters,” Hollings wrote.

    Joint Base Andrews Air Show 2015
    Joint Base Andrews Air Show 2015

    “That breaks down to between $206 and $216 million per fighter, as compared to the F-25’s current price of around $80 million per airframe and the F-15EX’s per-unit price of approximately $88 million.”

    McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter jet plane
    McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II fighter jet plane

    As the narrative goes, one of the Raptors maneuvered undetected beneath the Iranian aircraft, surveilled their loadout, and then revealed itself, pulling up beside the F-4 and radioing a clear message: “You really ought to go home.”

    F-22 Raptor powers down the runway
    F-22 Raptor powers down the runway

    As previously reported by The National Interest’s Eli Fuhrman, “The incident demonstrates the impressive stealth characteristics of the Raptor, which was able to approach the two Iranian fighters undetected and scout out their arsenals, before scaring them off.”

    Joint Base Andrews Air Show 2015
    Joint Base Andrews Air Show 2015

    As Harrison Kass, explained, “The Iranians flying in Vietnam War-era F-4 Phantoms were ill-equipped to match an F-22. Granted, the F-4 was a capable airframe – the most produced American supersonic military aircraft ever – but it first flew in 1958. The F-22, on the other hand, was an up-to-date, 21st century marvel.”

    Airplane F-22 Raptor military stealth jet performing at the 2018 Los Angeles Airshow. Los Angeles, California, USA / March 23,2018. The F-22 Raptor performs along with other military and civilian flying acts.
    Airplane F-22 Raptor military stealth jet performing at the 2018 Los Angeles Airshow. Los Angeles, California, USA / March 23,2018. The F-22 Raptor performs along with other military and civilian flying acts.

    To borrow a term from President Barack Obama, it seems like the U.S. pilots in the most advanced aircraft simply went up against the “JV team,” operating antiquated equipment.

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