Russia and its lineup of thrust vectoring fighters—namely modern Flanker derivatives like the Su-35—have certainly stolen the show when it comes to displaying extreme slow-speed maneuverability and other post-stall aerobatic feats. But the F-22, with its high thrust-to-weight ratio, huge control surfaces, and especially its two-dimensional thrust vectoring, can holds its own in this regard as well.
Case in point, this pretty damn amazing clip of an F-22 executing a big belly-first somersault at altitude. The jet seems to defy physics as its nose quickly changes from pointing one direction to the other.
Although extreme low-speed maneuvering has limited utility in modern air combat, for the F-22 its ability to quickly turn the tables on its enemy at low-speed is more important than it would be otherwise due to the lack of specific equipment on the jet. Although the Raptor now fields the AIM-9X Sidewinder, it still lacks a helmet mounted sight to aim the missile at targets located far off the jet's centerline axis.
The next generation Sidewinder does have a wider field of view, longer detection range, and can still be cued to targets far off boresight by the F-22's APG-77 AESA radar, but in hard maneuvering fights, the pilot still has to point the jet at the target to some degree in order to get the missile to lock on and thus kill the enemy. Most fighters currently in service, including Russia's thrust vectoring types, have helmet mounted sights to aim their short-range air-to-air missiles.
You can read all about these tactics and how they apply to various aircraft and scenarios in this previous piece, but suffice it to say, beyond one-versus one dogfights, ending up in a very low energy state is a bad place to be whether you vanquish an enemy fighter or not. Yet convoluted air combat environments with strict rules of engagement, like the one over Syria, remind us that within-visual-range air combat can't be fully discounted. This is also true as a result of new tactics, electronic warfare systems, advanced missiles, and stealthy aircraft that are proliferating around the globe. Beyond that, in some cases F-22 pilots will need to use all their missiles, and no, the AIM-9X is not there for purely defensive purposes, nor is the gun.
Beyond the within-visual-range combat arena, the F-22's thrust vectoring also helps it significantly with flight control at extreme altitudes and high-speeds. The Raptor community is known to hunt as high up as 60,000 feet and can supercruise (fly faster than the speed of sound for sustained periods without the use of gas-guzzling and easy to detect afterburner) at speeds greater than Mach 1.5.
Regardless of one of the most contested subjects in modern warfare and the F-22's high-altitude abilities, this video is just another reminder that the Raptor has a deep bag of tricks and it remains the gold standard of fighter aircraft the world over.
The clip was grabbed from this awesome video from the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, check it out in full below:
Contact the author: Typer@thedrive.com