30 April 2012
The U.S. Air Force has deployed its fifth-generation stealth fighters, F-22 Raptor, in Southwest Asia, the Washington Post newspaper said, citing an Air Force spokesman.
The paper quoted An Air Force spokesman, Capt. Phil Ventura, as saying that the deployment was regularly scheduled and was directed at improving tactical interoperability.
The number of F-22s, as well as the location of their base, was not disclosed to protect operational security, Washington Post said.
The deployment comes as the Iran Six, which includes the United States and Russia, is preparing for talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program.
Aviation Week, which was the first to report the deployment of the fighters earlier this week, quoted industry sources as saying the planes would operate out of Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, which has a border with Iran. There was no official confirmation of the information, however.
F-22 is a single-seat, twin-engine fifth-generation fighter aircraft that uses stealth technology. It has never been combat-proven.
The $150-mln plane entered service with the USAF in 2005. Over 160 F-22s have been built by Lockheed Martin with projected goal of 187 aircraft. The export sale of the F-22 is prohibited by U.S. federal law.
The USAF already lost two F-22s - during takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base in December 2004 and during a test flight near Edwards Air Force Base in March 2009.