Australia is now home to the US military’s F-22 Raptors, widely considered the best fighter plane in the world.
On Wednesday the US signed a deal for Australia to host the F-22 and other military assets, as America gets “ready to confront” China over the disputed South China Sea.
Northern Australia is seen as a strategic territory as it is out of range of China’s ballistic missiles and at the edge of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
The commander of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, said the move was also a show of “enduring interests” in Australia in the lead up to president-elect Donald Trump taking office in January.
Harris said there was “no room for subtlety” when deterring potential aggression in the region and that maintaining a “credible combat power” was vital, along with having the resolve to use it and signalling that resolve.
So what do we know about these lethal planes?
The F-22 is the first fifth-generation jet fighter ever built.
It combines extreme stealth with super-manoevreability, can execute mind-bending aerial manoeuvres, sense incoming threats at incredible distances, and fly undetected by legacy aircraft.
In the clip below, an F-22 more than once goes completely vertical, nose up to the sky, while draining off nearly all of its speed, and for a brief, shining moment, pauses at the crest of its ascent.
Then the pilot twists the F-22 into flips and rolls. At one point, the Raptor goes into a “falling leaf” manoeuvre, where it spins and drifts in a way that makes you almost forget that two massive jet engines power it. With most aircraft, this would be a complete loss of control resulting in a collision with the ground, but seconds later, the engines roar back to life, and the plane is on its way again.
Raptor pilots recently shared some insights on the capability of the aircraft in an article by Dave Majumdar at The National Interest.
“Even when flying against the most challenging simulated threats — advanced Russian fighters such as the Su-35 and S-300V4 and S-400 — it is exceedingly rare for an F-22 to be ‘shot down’. ‘Losses in the F-22 are a rarity regardless of the threat we’re training against,’” an F-22 pilot said.
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