F-22 Raptors "played an integral role" during last Saturday's attack in Syria, US. Air Force Central Command spokesman Capt. Mark Graff has said, according to the Air Force Times.
Last week, Joint Staff director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters that since US air assets did not enter Syria's air defense zone, F-22s were not used to accompany bombers. He also reported that the US's B1-B bombers launched 19 of its new JASSM-ER cruise missile, making it the first time the new but troublesome Lockheed Martin standoff weapon was deployed.
However, in a press briefing on Thursday, McKenzie corrected his account, saying he "misspoke" about the JASSM-ER, which has a 1000 km+ range and a 450 kg warhead. Instead, he said, standard JASSMs were used. These have an operational range of 370 km, and first entered into service in 2009, as opposed to the JASSM-ER, which was only approved for combat use in February of this year.
As for the F-22s, Capt. Graff said that the fifth-gen fighters did participate in the operation after all, but only indirectly, "protecting ground forces during and after the multinational strikes…"
According to Graff, the F-22's "unique fifth-generation capabilities" made it "the only airframe suited to operate inside the Syrian integrated air defense system [IADS]." This, he said, offered the air force "an option with which to neutralize IADS threats to our forces and installations in the region, and provide protective air support for US, coalition and partners on the ground."
It's unclear why Pentagon officials did not initially disclose the role played by the F-22, and what accounts for the conflicting reports regarding their use. In briefings following the strikes, media reports were limited mostly to stories about the use of F-15 and F-16 fighters. The Russian Defense Ministry reported on the use of the latter planes in its briefing last Saturday, hours after the attack. Furthermore, some Russian media also reported on the F-22s' use as support aircraft for the B-1Bs.
#SYRIA #Rudskoy: B-1B, F-15 and F-16 aircraft, USAF, as well as Tornado airplanes, UK RAF, over the Mediterranean Sea, and the USS Laboon and USS Monterey, in the Red Sea, were used during the operation. Announced French aircraft have not been registered— Минобороны России (@mod_russia) 14 апреля 2018 г.
US defense news resources however, complained for the most part about the F-22s' being "once again left on the combat sidelines."
In Syria Strike, F-22 Raptor Once Again Left on Combat Sidelines https://t.co/4v5zaA3iEb— Military.com (@Militarydotcom) 16 апреля 2018 г.
Lordy. So on Saturday, we asked multiple times and were told multiple times that 1) The F-22 was not used in the Syria operation, and 2) It was the extended range JASSM launched from B-1. Now, five days later, USAF is saying neither was correct.— Aaron Mehta (@AaronMehta) 19 апреля 2018 г.
What a cluster.
The US, the UK and France fired over 100 sea- and air-launched cruise missiles into Syria on the morning of Saturday, April 14. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Syria used its mostly Soviet-era air defense systems, including the Buk S-125, and the S-200 SAM systems, to blunt the attack, shooting down just shy of 70% of the missiles fired.
The US and its allies initiated the April 14 attack following an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma, Eastern Ghouta which was immediately blamed on Damascus. Syrian and Russian officials have come to characterize the 'chemical attack' as a false flag used as a pretext to launch the US-led strikes.