On Mar. 1, 2016 the 90th Fighter Squadron (FS) belonging to the 3rd Wing stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska officially became the first combat-operational Raptor unit to equip an F-22 with the AIM-9X Sidewinder.
According to Chief Master Sgt. Chuck Jenkins, 3rd Wing Weapons Manager, the AIM-9X will increase the already outstanding Raptor’s combat capabilities. “This has been in the inventory for the Air Force and Navy for some years; it’s nothing new to the military, but to put it on the Ferrari of aircraft – the F-22, the most advanced aircraft we have – it gives the pilots more maneuverability, larger range, and it’s a much faster missile” he said.
A claim confirmed by Lt. Col David Skalicky, commander of the 90th FS, who highlighted that, like the F-22 is a generation beyond the fighters that came before it, the AIM-9X is a generation beyond the previous variants of the Sidewinder missile: “Every aspect about this missile, it’s a huge capability increase in all facets, we can employ it in more scenarios, at greater range, and reach edges of the envelope we would have had a more difficult time reaching with the AIM-9M.”
The late arrival of the AIM-9X (already integrated in most of US combat planes since 2003) to the F-22 very well may signal a new era in Air Force airpower, since as told by Skalicky “this missile makes the most lethal combat aircraft the world has ever seen even more capable. It’s a giant enhancement to the already formidable F-22 arsenal.”
Noteworthy, the AIM-9X will not be coupled to a Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) as the F-22 is not equipped with such kind of helmet that provides the essential flight and weapon aiming information through line of sight imagery (the project to implement it was axed following 2013 budget cuts).
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