ISIS militants in Syria were granted a rare honor courtesy of the U.S. military Monday night as they sat on the receiving end of the first real-combat airstrikes executed by F-22 Raptor stealth fighters.
The first actual-combat deployment of the fifth-generation, multi-role fighter was likely selected to counter Syria’s advanced air defense system, which would require a high degree of altitude and maneuverability to execute strikes from a safe and precise distance. (RELATED: Watch This F-22 Raptor Do Some Incredible Aerial Acrobatics [VIDEO])
Raptors’ incredible “supermaneuverability” is one of the reasons the plane had yet to be deployed, as the extreme turning radius can take a heavy toll on pilots, many of whom have reported breathing problems while flying according to Business Insider.
The Raptor features an exhaust thrust vectoring system capable of pitching the plane 24 degrees up or down in mid-air, which gives it a huge tactical advantage in aerial combat, and lets pilots perform aerial maneuvers that would send other conventional combat aircraft spiraling to the ground.
Citing an Air Force source, The Wall Street Journal reports Raptors can drop 1,000-pound guided bombs 15 miles away from their targets — a far greater distance than the F/A-18s or F16s traditionally deployed for such missions.
Raptors can carry a range of armaments including GPS-guided bombs, AIM-120s Amraam and AIM-9s Sidewinder missiles.
The F-22s, stationed at a base in the U.A.E., were used Monday night in a coalition strike against extremist fighters carried out by the U.S. and five Middle Eastern allies against an ISIS stronghold in Raqqa and an al Qaeda base in northwestern Syria.
On Tuesday the U.S. Navy released a video of the U.S.S. Philippine stationed in the Arabian Gulf launching a Tomahawk missile at an ISIS target in Syria as part of the attack.