One Raptor Down! US F-22 ‘Loses’ Air Battle To New Dog FA-50 In Cope Thunder Military Drills, PAF Claims

The US fifth-generation stealth aircraft F-22 Raptor, designed to kick down the doors of enemy’s air defenses, met a potent enemy in the Korean-made FA-50 fighter jet. The last time the two were in “an adversarial role” over the Luzon skies, the Philippines Air Force (PAF) FA-50 went toe-to-toe against the American war jet and even claimed a “kill” against the F-22.

The year 2023 saw a sharp uptick in the defense ties between the Philippines and the US.

The archipelagic country located in the South China Sea saw the touchdown of many state-of-the-art fighter jets for the first time. During the 2023 edition of the Cope Thunder exercise between the US and the Philippines that took place after 33 years, the Korean-made FA-50 claimed to have killed the USAF’s F-22 Raptor.

The Philippines Air Force (PAF) claimed this feat in a journal entry. “Fox 2! Killed one Raptor on the right turn!” these words from a Filipino fighter pilot crackled over the radio during an air combat exercise with an F-22 Raptor.

“This was an unprecedented achievement in history: The Lead-in Fighter Aircraft of the Philippines effectively engaged and defeated a 5th generation fighter in a simulated air combat scenario over the skies of Luzon as part of the Cope Thunder Exercise,” the journal entry read.

The F-22 Raptor is a single-pilot, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft manufactured by Lockheed Martin for the United States Air Force (USAF). The plane was developed under the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program to establish air superiority and ground control through assault, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence capability.

Most of the F-22’s airframe and weapon systems, as well as the final assembly, were handled by Lockheed Martin. At the same time, Boeing was responsible for the aircraft’s wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems. The plane was a joint effort between the two companies.

After being designated F-22 and F/A-22, the F-22A entered service in December 2005. Despite its lengthy development and operational difficulties, the USAF considers the F-22 a critical tactical aircraft. It has the best stealth technology, aerodynamic performance, and the most advanced avionics systems of any plane worldwide.

It is an achievement for the PAF, as the F-22, a 5th-generation fighter jet, is said to be superior to the F-35 in speed and stealth. A highly agile fighter with a low SSKP (single shot kill probability) against long-range BVR, the F-22 will easily defeat the F-35, and in a drill in Norway, the F-22 beat the F-35 in dogfight and BVR combat.

The F-22’s ability to stay out of sight has proven to be better than planned. From a radar point of view, the F-22’s radar cross section (RCS) is about the size of a steel pebble.

Compared to the F-22, which can achieve speeds of around 2.0 Mach, the F-35 can only attain speeds of approximately 1.70 Mach and is less maneuverable in dogfights. The F-22 can climb at 62,000 feet per minute, while the F-35 can only achieve a rate of 45,000 feet per minute.

FA-50 Fighting Eagle
File Image: FA-50 Fighting Eagle

The Surprise Usurper FA-50

The FA-50 is a variant of South Korean supersonic advanced jet trainers and light combat aircraft christened T-50 Golden Eagle. It was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in collaboration with Lockheed Martin. The development began in the 1990s, and the aircraft entered active service with the Republic of Korea Air Force in 2005.

The Philippines has purchased 12 FA-50 fighter jets for its air force, and they were inducted into the service in 2015.

Cope Thunder 2023

Originating in the Philippines in 1976, Cope Thunder began as an annual event at Clark Air Base. However, when the eruption of Mount Pinatubo wreaked havoc on the airbase in 1991, the exercise had to be put on hold. In 1992, it found a new home at Eielson Air Force Base and transformed, evolving into what is now known as Red Flag Alaska.

After more than three decades, Cope Thunder makes a triumphant return to its Philippine roots in 2023. This revival marks a unique opportunity for the Philippines and the US to join forces, fostering collaboration and bolstering interoperability.

The US Air Force F-22 Raptor from the Hawaiian Raptors Squadron, which is made up of the 19th and 199th Fighter Squadrons, participated in the exercise Cope Thunder 23-2. The training was conducted at the Clark Air Base, Mactan Air Base, and other airfields around the Philippines.

The bilateral military exercise aimed to improve the interoperability of the US and the Philippines through fighter training. The practice allowed the two countries to swap tactics, techniques, and procedures to increase the effectiveness of joint operations.

File: F-22 Raptor

F-22’s Illustrious Combat History

The F-22 distinguished itself during the aircraft’s first ‘combat surge’ in 2018 over Syria, where the plane scared off 587 Syrian, Iranian, and Russian combat aircraft and dropped 4,250 pounds of ordnance on enemy positions, the Pentagon stated at the time.

F-22 pilots from the 94th Fighter Wing completed 590 individual flights totaling 4,600 flight hours with 4,250 pounds of ordnance dropped in their deployment to the region in the “first-ever F-22 Raptor combat surge,” the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon said the F-22 “deterred” 587 enemy aircraft in the process, suggesting the jet commands some respect against older Russian-made models often in operation by Russian and Syrian forces. This surge saw F-22 operations maximized over three days.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)
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