The Russian Air Force may have learned enough from interacting with US Air Force fighter jets during the conflict in Syria and Iraq to erode the edge of US stealth technology.
“The skies over Iraq and specifically Syria have really just been a treasure trove for them to see how we operate,” Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson said at an Air Force Association briefing hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies on Thursday. Lt. Gen. Jamieson is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C.
“Our adversaries are watching us – they’re learning from us,” said Jamieson, adding that Russia’s air force cycled most forces through Syria to give them real-world combat experience, reported Business Insider.
The practice of illuminating aircraft with airborne and ground-based radar most certainly gave the Russian military experience in combating American air power. The real question is how much information was gleaned and whether it was enough to find ways to defeat the stealthiness of the F-22. Russia also obviously rotated crews through the theater to give them combat experience, and to show off the capabilities of Russian aircraft. In essence, the Syrian conflict was much more than Russian assistance to the Assad regime, it was a giant informercial for Russian propaganda and arms sales.
When accused of breaking the pre-agreed rules for operating in the Syrian theater, the Russian Defense Ministry declared, “A Russian Su-35 fighter jet, performing an air cover mission at an altitude of 10,000 meters, swiftly approached the F-22 from the rear, forcing the American aircraft to leave the area.”
Russian state media channel RT wrote this after the incident, “Russian pilots always managed to get behind US-led coalition fighter jets they encountered in the skies over Syria, a Russian ace said after receiving a state award from President Putin at the Kremlin. When meeting our partners from the Western coalition in the air, we always found ourselves ‘on their tails’ as the pilots say, which means victory in a dogfight,” Russian Airspace Forces major, Maksim Makolin, said.”
For its part, the USAF denied the Russian version of events over Syria and suggested the statements are simply propaganda, especially claims that American jets broke the rules and were chased away by Russian fighters.
“We saw anywhere from six to eight incidents daily in late November, where Russian or Syrian aircraft crossed into our airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command told U.S. news outlet CNN recently. “It’s become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots are deliberately testing or baiting us into reacting, or if these are just honest mistakes,” reported The Aviationist.
“It is a vastly different way to employ the full capabilities of the F-22 in unlimited combat than the way they are currently flying in Syria. The pilot’s mission is to enforce no fly areas and escort offending aircraft from the zone. This means they must make themselves known. The advantage stealth gives them is negated. In wartime the F-22 would ideally engage from long range and never been seen by enemy radar and certainly not visually,” said Brent Beecham, graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, former F-15 pilot and combat veteran of the Gulf War, who also flew for the USAF and the Israeli Air Force. Beecham is also editor-in-chief of Tsionizm.com.
At the same briefing in with Lt. Gen. Jamieson spoke, Lt. Gen. Chris Nowland declared, “The United States Air Force can and will maintain air supremacy today…The question is the future.”