Raptor Thrills at Farnborough but Thanks to Escort?

 - July 21, 2008, 10:08 AM

This columnist never did discover why the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor that displayed at this month’s Farnborough airshow, needed an escort from an F-15 fighter. The top-of-the-line stealth fighter flew from RAF Fairford, only 50 miles away, where it was due to make its international debut at the Royal International Air Tattoo. When that show was abandoned due to heavy rain, the Raptor’s one scheduled appearance on the opening day of the Farnborough show became, by default, its international debut instead. A UK-based F-15C interceptor joined up with the F-22 after it took off from Fairford, and the pair flew in loose formation to and from Farnborough. While the F-22 wowed the crowd with high-energy and post-stall maneuvers, the F-15 orbited a few miles away. Could it be that Major Paul Moga, the F-22 display pilot, could not be trusted to find Farnborough on his own? After all, a B-1 failed to find the famous Hampshire airfield a few years ago and did his Farnborough display over Blackbushe, a nearby general aviation base. Or was it a radio issue? The Raptor is already notorious for its stand-apart characteristics, unable to communicate on the battlefield with other assets, airborne and ground-based. Whatever the reason, the U.S. Air Force wasn’t providing an explanation. “That’s just the way we do things,” said an officer.