Aviation enthusiasts have been flocking to RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk to catch a glimpse of the United States Air Force's latest jet fighter.
These F-22 Raptors are from the 95th Fighter Squadron (nicknamed 'Boneheads') , 325th Fighter Wing at Tyndall Air Force Base, in Florida. The first four F-22s arrived at RAF Lakenheath on Monday 11 April, followed by four more on Tuesday 12 April. The last four arrived at Lakenheath on Sunday 17 April. Approximately 220 airmen and associated equipment were deployed to Lakenheath.
RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, is home to the 48th Fighter Wing, also known as the Liberty Wing, which includes three squadrons of McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle aircraft. This was a good opportunity for the F-22 Raptors to train alongside Lakenheath's F-15 Eagles as well as the Royal Air Force's Typhoons, and training commenced from Monday 18th April.
The Lockheed Martin F-22A 'Raptor' is a fifth-generation single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force. The aircraft is considered to be unmatched by any known or projected fighter and the combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and situational awareness gives the aircraft unprecedented air combat capabilities.
It is the first operational aircraft to combine supercruise, supermaneuverability, stealth, and sensor fusion. It can sustain supersonic flight without the use of afterburners and the two turbofan engines, which each have a maximum thrust of 35,000 lb, incorporate thrust vectoring nozzles, for increased maneuverability. Air to Air and Air to Surface weapons are carried in three internal weapons bays so that the Raptor can maintain its stealth capabilities.
The twelve F-22 Raptors which deployed to RAF Lakenheath included:- 04-4072, 04-4080, 04-4081, 05-4084, 05-4086, 05-4089, 05-4091, 05-4094, 05-4095, 05-4101, 05-4106, and 05-4107.
The Royal Air Force Typhoons have already worked with the F-22 Raptor in previous 'Red Flag' and 'Western Zephyr' exercises in the USA. These exercises continue the interoperability and integration of RAF operations with the fifth generation F-22, ahead of the introduction into service of the F-35 Lightning II.
On Wednesday 20th April, U.S. and French military and civic leaders attended the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial event in Marnes-la-Couquette, France, to commemorate the centennial of the flying squadron's formation. The Lafayette Escadrille was formed on April 20, 1916 by 38 U.S. volunteer pilots who flew under French command a year before the U.S. entered into WWI. To mark this event, four of the F-22 Raptors made a flypast along with a B-52 Stratofortress, three FAF Mirage 2000Ns, a FAF Rafale and a World War I-era Stearman PT-17 biplane.
Two of the F-22 Raptors at Lakenheath, and one KC-135 Stratotanker from RAF Mildenhall, arrived at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, Romania on Friday 22nd April. This deployment is a demonstration of support for Romania and to showcase the flexible response and range of capabilities of the F-22 Raptors of 95th Fighter Squadron. The two Raptors returned to RAF Lakenheath on Monday night to continue their training deployment.
On Tuesday 26th April, two F-22 Raptors, callsign 'Mongol Flight', took part in low-level flying over 'Low Fly Area 7', also called the 'Mach Loop' in North Wales, along with two F-15E Strike Eagles and an F-15C Eagle from Lakenheath. They were given clearance to fly as low as 500 feet.
A pair of F-22 Raptors and one KC-135 Stratotanker also deployed to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania on Wednesday 27th April for a brief stay before the Raptors returned to RAF Lakenheath to continue their training deployment that ends in May.
Eight of the F-22A Raptors departed Lakenheath on Sunday 8th May 2016 to return to Tyndall AFB, Florida. The remaining four Raptors departed on Monday 9th May.
The Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor is also expected to participate in this year's Royal International Air Tattoo event on 8th-10th July 2016.