“In an F-15 you’re sensor operator, you’re working the radar; you’re the guy working this all out and managing the systems and putting together the 3D picture in your head. That’s the difference with the F-22 Raptor. It does it all for you.” Mike ‘Dozer’ Shower F-15 Eagle and F-22 Raptor fighter pilot.
The Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor is the world’s first stealthy air dominance fighter. Its radar, weapons control and electronic warfare systems work together as one integrated unit. The Raptor combines stealth, maneuverability and the ability to fly long distances at supersonic speeds — or “supercruise” — in performance of air superiority and air-to-ground missions. Furthermore, it requires less maintenance than older fighters.
From the very beginning, the F-22A exceeded the USAF’s expectations, and during exercises and deployments, it proved to be more than a match for any fighter opposing it.
During the highly realistic Exercise Northern Edge 2006, the F-22 proved itself against as many as 40 “enemy aircraft” during simulated battles. The Raptor pilots achieved a 108-to-zero “kill” ratio against the best F-15, F-16 and F-18 “adversaries.” The stealthy F-22A also proved that it could avoid and destroy enemy surface to air missiles, and recorded an impressive 97 percent mission capability rate.
Mike ‘Dozer’ Shower graduated top of his class and got the pick of the various seats available to a USAF pilot — including slots as an F-111 pilot and a variety of places as an F-15C fighter pilot. He recalls in Bertie Simmonds’ book F-15 Eagle: “So, I picked the F-15C slot at Elmendorf, Alaska, and went from Tyndall in Florida up to Elmendorf, but my first F-15 flight was out of Tyndall in a two-seater and my second flight was one of those max performance take-offs. So many things are happening at once: it was summertime in Florida, hot and humid; trying to catch up with the airplane as an F-15 in military dry power is like a T-38 in full afterburner! It takes time to work it out: eventually your mind catches up. It was like Star Wars when they hit light speed.”
Dozer was in the F-15C community right at its peak during the 1990s through to the 2000s. He says: “Back then the F-15 was the best plane out there: it reigned supreme. It flew high (until the F-22 came along), had a big radar, but it was the weapons and training and sensors that made it.” Mike would get a MiG-29 kill during Operation Allied Force over Bosnia on Mar. 24, 1999, ripple-firing an AIM-120 and an AIM-7 Sparrow. So, let’s talk F-15C versus F-22A Raptor: Dozer?
“In an F-15 you’re sensor operator, you’re working the radar; you’re the guy working this all out and managing the systems and putting together the 3D picture in your head. That’s the difference with the F-22 Raptor. It does it all for you … you could take four weapons instructors in an F-15 each and you could have some lieutenant who is ‘weapons clueless’ and he’s gonna find them all and kill them all. Then you put one really good guy in an F-15 against a Raptor and he’s still gonna get killed; there’s that much of a difference in technology. It’s about sensors and training.”
In 2001 there was a request for experienced pilots, F-15C pilots and ex-weapons school and that meant that Dozer was going to get lucky and get to test the F-22 Raptor. He says: “By 2002 the Raptor was a hit behind time — the airframe and stuff was good, just not the electronics. I kinda termed the phrase ‘offensive stealth and defensive stealth’ as the F-22 can be offensive but the likes of the B-2 Spirit and F-117A Nighthawk have to run and hide, right? The F-22 is a different use: it flies fast and high, the F-117 is low and slow, while the B-2 is high and slow.”
Initially — at Edwards Air Force Base — as is usual with a new platform, getting things to ‘work’ was an issue. Dozer says: “I was at Edwards for about a year and a half and we had a hard time to get two planes to work at same time. First day we had two planes to work, we had Langley F-15s next door and we are like: `Hey, we’ve got two planes working; wanna come fly against us?’
“So we hop in the jets and set up the two of us; we’ve done simulator stuff but we’re not sure it will work. We take off, we’ve got tankers, we’ve got the F-15s and we try our tactics out. We set up the battles against different numbers of F-15s, up to eight against two Raptors and they just never saw us. We could hear them saying: ‘Hey, where are you at?’ and we are a mile behind them. These were combat-experienced pilots we’re talking about. It was really cool. This proved what the F-22 could do. I had one guy who had worked on the F-22 programme come up to us almost crying, saying: `Hey you validated my whole life’s work.’
“We tested against F-15s, F-16s and then people realised it wasn’t a joke or a theory: the F-22 worked. My favourite time was a Raptor four-ship versus 12 F-15Cs and we’re like, ‘Let’s see how quick we can kill these guys’ So we hook up way up high and supersonic and they can’t take a shot and they’re running away at Mach 1 and we kill them in two minutes or so. I was thinking, ‘This thing is unbelievable.’ When the sensors work and each plane talks to each other, the Raptor is nearly untouchable when things are right. The F-22 versus a 4th-generation fighter is like having two football teams against each other and one of them [the F-22] is invisible!”
F-15 Eagle is published by Mortons Books and is available to order here.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force