As part of an allied military intervention in Libya, the United States has launched a number of air strikes targeting Qaddafi’s ground forces and air defense centers, but one rather expensive aircraft is sitting out the action: the Air Force’s much-touted F-22 fighter jet, produced by Lockheed Martin.
Though early reports said the F-22 would likely be used to set up the no-fly zone in Libya, Air Force Times reports that the jet was likely excluded because it lacks capabilities to communicate with other aircraft and has limited ability to hit ground targets:
U.S. Africa Command, which is running Operation Odyssey Dawn, confirmed the F-22 has not flown over Libya.
“I see no indication that F-22s were used as an escort for the B-2 nor do I see anything that indicates the Raptor will be used in future missions over Libya,” said Air Force Maj. Eric Hilliard, a spokesman for Africa Command.
Had the F-22 been used, Libya would’ve been its first taste of combat. The $150-million aircraft has “not performed a single mission” in either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2008 that the jet was “principally for use against a near peer in a conflict”—a far more limited use than the plane’s advocates suggest.
That’s also what Gates said in 2009, when he was fighting to get Congress to end funding for the F-22. He called it a “niche” solution used specifically for sophisticated air-to-air combat.
“The F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict,” Gates said. "Nonetheless, supporters of the F-22 lately have promoted its use for an ever expanding list of potential missions."
The Pentagon has spent more than $65 billion on the program, which suffered a number of complications, delays and cost overruns. Though the program produced far fewer than the number originally planned for, Gates has maintained that the current inventory of 182 F-22s jets is sufficient.