The time an F-22 flew right under an F-4 from Iran: The American-made F-22 Raptor recently made headlines for shooting down multiple objects this February, including one Chinese balloon over U.S. airspace.
Back in 2013, an Iranian fighter pilot was approaching an American drone in international airspace when a pair of F-22 Raptors flew right beside him.
The words uttered by the Raptor pilot was enough to make the Phantom swiftly turn around.
Iranian fighters shot at U.S. drones before
One year prior to the Raptor incident, a U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was intercepted by a pair of Iranian Air Force planes while on a routine surveillance flight in international airspace.
Designed primarily for patient reconnaissance, the MQ-1 drone did not pose a threat to enemy airframes and would, in fact, struggle to even evade an attack if one were to occur.
The Iranian war planes, likely trying to compensate for their lackluster abilities, shot at the unarmed drone anyways. The pilots were flying Soviet-era Su-25 jets, airframes with similar mission sets to the U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II “Warthog” but different capabilities.
After shooting all 250 rounds of munitions carried onboard toward the U.S.-made drone, the two Su-25 pilots turned away.
So, the U.S. sent its top-of-the-line F-22 fighters to escort its UAVs
Following this 2012 incident, the U.S. began flying fighter escorts along with its drone deployments.
According to Sandboxx News, the service often sent “F/A-18 Super Hornets off of the nearby USS John C. Stennis, but occasionally used F-22 Raptors operating out of bases in the United Arab Emirates.” When the U.S. drone was approached one year later, this time, an F-22 was able to effectively respond to the “threat.”
The Raptor pilot stealthily flew the airframe underneath the Iranian fighter to inspect the weapons it was carrying without being detected. Obviously, the Raptor pilot was not intimidated by the F-4’s payload. Next, the Raptor flew right next to the F-4 fighter, completely shocking the Iranian pilot.
Here is where the Raptor pilot made the legendary statement, “You really oughta go home.” Unsurprisingly, the Iranian jet vanished.
The Raptor is in a whole other league
Widely regarded as the best fighter jet ever designed and produced, the F-22 Raptor is a more than worthy match for any aircraft, let alone the aging F-4s of the Iranian Air Force. It is one of the few combat aircraft capable of supercruise, allowing it to fly faster than the speed of sound without the use of fuel intensive afterburners.
Its powerful engines are also equipped with thrust vectoring, giving the Raptor supermaneuverability making it lethal in a dogfight. Probably its greatest assets, however, are those which make it one of the stealthiest aircraft in the skies.
While previous stealth aircraft such as the B-2 Spirit have relied heavily on Radar Absorbent Material (RAM) to achieve their small footprint, this technology is notoriously finicky and difficult to maintain.
The Spirit bombers have climate-controlled hangars to prevent degradation of the RAM which works well for strategic aircraft based in the U.S. but would prove challenging for a fighter that may see frontline combat.
Instead, the designers of the Raptor used the shape of the aircraft itself to reduce its cross section. These advances made the F-22 all but invisible to airborne radars and allowed this daring pilot to jump next to the Iranian F-4 in total secrecy.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
From the vault