Key Point: The key, Gruene said, was to get as close as possible to the powerful F-22 … and stay there. “They didn’t expect us to turn so aggressively.”
Past evidence seems to confirm that a French fighter pilot once “killed” an American F-22 Raptor stealth fighter in mock combat.
Although not unprecedented, the simulated shoot-down is still a big deal for a couple reasons.
For one, the Lockheed Martin-made F-22 is supposed to be the most fearsome warplane in history, a quarter-billion-dollar-per-plane technological marvel that flies higher and faster than its opponents while avoiding detection by radar. The Pentagon is counting on a tiny number of the pricey Raptors — slightly more than 180 — to ward off potentially much larger numbers of enemy planes for the foreseeable future. Every mock dogfight the F-22 loses undermines the Pentagon’s plans for air dominance.
Plus, the French still have a totally undeserved reputation in non-French military circles for battlefield incompetence — one based mostly on a bad reading of World War II history. That a French pilot could defeat an F-22 speaks volumes about the Raptor’s limitations … and about French air-combat prowess seven decades after Paris’ surrender to Nazi Germany.
The French victory over the F-22 occurred in November 2009. A squad of F-22s from the Air Force’s 1st Fighter Wing in Virginia flew to Al Dhafra, in the UAE, to train with French air force Rafale fighters and Typhoon jets from the British Royal Air Force.
The following month, the French Ministry of Defense released video captures from a Rafale’s forward-facing camera showing an F-22 in a disadvantageous dogfighting position, implying the French plane had won at least one round of pretend fighting.
But the American pilots insisted their planes had gone undefeated against the French during the November exercise — that, in fact, the F-22s had “shot down” Rafales in six one-on-one engagements. Five other simulated battles ended in draws, the Americans said. The U.S. pilots copped to just one loss in the war game — an F-22 defeated by a Mirage 2000 flown by an Emirati aviator.