‘Spads’ on the road

Photo: AIM-120 AMRAAMs ready to load at Al Dhafra. Jamie Hunter


Our August issue features a world exclusive feature on the 94 th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed to Al Dhafra, UAE. Combat Aircraft flew a mission in support of the unit’s F-22 Raptors in Operation ‘Inherent Resvolve’.

The squadron has been extensively involved in OIR and supported the attack on April 14 against Syrian sites that were reportedly involved in chemical weapons production and storage. The operation was conducted in response to an attack carried out by Syria against civilians in Douma on April 7. Launched in the early hours, the strikes targeted facilities near Damascus and Homs and came 100 years to the day that the ‘Spads’ flew their first combat missions and scored the squadron’s first aerial victory during WW1.

Speaking of their missions, squadron commander Lt Col ‘Habu’ said: ‘It’s very dynamic and complex. We are living in the gray a lot of the time and a lot of the decision-making authority lies with the pilot. We have days when there isn’t a lot of activity in our area, then there are days with a range of different things going on. Overall, these are long missions.

‘Our primary reason for being deployed here is our ability to ensure air dominance in the theater — that means defending coalition forces on the ground and in the air, so our primary role is defensive counter air [DCA].’ As well as flying with a standard load of AIM-120 AMRAAMs (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles) and AIM-9X, the Raptors fly with the GBU-39 SDB. ‘The F-22 is a useful strike platform, but we rely on other assets on the ground and in the air to give us the information we require for these missions.’

‘We have a plan as we walk out of the door to the jets, but it typically evolves,’ explains ‘Habu’. ‘The F-22 brings risk mitigation — it’s less risky for an F-22 to be in a certain place at a certain time than it might be for another asset. Being a stealth airplane with the sensor capability and the situational awareness that we have can lower the risk of conducting a particular mission.’

For the full exclusive feature, be sure to pick up your copy of Combat Aircraft’s August issue.



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