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Why The F-22 Is Making Its Combat Debut In Syria

The controversial F-22 made its combat debut in the U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria. Here's why the U.S. has been reluctant to use the aircraft before.

Why The F-22 Is Making Its Combat Debut In Syria
Rob Shenk / CC BY SA 2.0

PRESIDENT OBAMA VIA THE WHITE HOUSE: "Our budget is a zero-sum game, and if more money goes to F-22s, it is our troops and citizens who lose."

Five years later, and those same F-22 Raptors are now dropping bombs over Syria. (Via U.S. Central Command

The controversial warplane — which critics have dubbed "too dangerous to fly" — made its combat debut in the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS last week.

Prior to that, the F-22s —which have been operational since 2005 — hadn't seen a day of battle, despite the $67 billion the Pentagon has spent on the program. A series of safety problems and design flaws at least partially explain the reluctance to use the jets. (Video via U.S. Department of Defense

Among them, software glitches and toxic fluid leaks, not to mention the unexplained loss of oxygen pilots had experienced while flying. 

But given all its problems, why is the F-22 being used now in Syria — when it wasn't deployed in Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq?

In part, experts say, because targeting militants in previous operations didn't require aircraft with such high-end capabilities. (Video via Stratfor

The F-22 provides an advantage other jets, like the F-15 and F-16, don't. It's virtually undetectable to radar. And should Syria choose to engage, the jets could avoid the regime's Russian-made air defense system. (Video via Lockheed Martin)

And in addition to its stealth, the F-22 can drop precision-guided missiles from farther away than other aircraft.

That was key to the Syrian strikes. The Pentagon confirmed F-22s were used to take out an ISIS command and control building with their GPS-guided precision munitions. (Video via U.S. Central Command

The F-22 was the ideal aircraft for an operation targeting militants in civilian areas, according to a defense researcher who spoke with Fox News. "The target was right in the heart of a city so they wanted a very precise hit  — to destroy the target and not anything else."

The four F-22s used in the Syrian operation were also joined by F-16s, F-15s, the B-1 bomber and armed drones. The targets included the ISIS headquarters, training camps, barracks and combat vehicles.

This video includes an image from Rob Shenk / CC BY SA 2.0.