One aircraft conspicuous by its absence over the skies of Libya is the Air Force’s vaunted F-22 Raptor air dominance fighter. The Lockheed Martin-built jet was likely benched due to its inability to communicate with other coalition aircraft and its limited ability to hit ground targets, analysts said.
“The designers of the F-22 had a dilemma, which is whether to have the connectivity that would allow versatility or to have the radio silence that would facilitate stealthiness. What they opted for was a limited set of tactical data links,” said Loren Thompson, an analyst and chief operating office at the Lexington Institute, Arlington Va.
The F-22 can only connect with other F-22s via an intraflight data link, and can only receive, but not transmit, over the standard Link-16 data link found on most allied aircraft.
Radio emissions from various data links could potentially give away the aircraft’s position, Thompson said.
As such, while the Raptor is the stealthiest operational aircraft in the world, it lacks much of the connectivity found on other warplanes, he said.
The aircraft also lacks a significant air-to-surface punch. Currently, the F-22 can only use two 1,000-pound Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are GPS-guided bombs, against fixed targets.