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The F-22 Quick Reaction Force
by James Dunnigan
November 3, 2013

October 25, 2013: Over the last few years the U.S. Air Force has developed a novel way to make the most of the few (180) F-22s it has. This particular solution comes in the form of an F-22 QRF (Quick Reaction Force) that consists of four F-22s and a C-17 full of weapons, maintenance gear, maintainers, specialized pods, weapons, and spare pilots ready to fly to any of hundreds of airports or bases in the world that can handle four F-22s and a C-17. When there is a need for a few stealthy fighters somewhere on the planet, the QRF can be off and set up within a day to provide seventy-two hours of F-22 air support and a dozen or more sorties. The QRF pilots are trained to handle air superiority or a wide range of surface (land and sea) attacks. Think of this as the Fedex of specialized air support.

Speaking of support, to make the F-22 QRF system work, the air force has also arranged to send up aerial tankers as needed (to get the five QRF aircraft to their temporary base). In addition, there is a stay-behind planning and control staff as well as liaison officers and diplomats prepared to ensure that the overseas base is ready to receive the QRF and allow it to operate. Since F-22s require some complex and difficult-to-move maintenance gear for sustained operations, you would have to rotate fresh F-22s in once or twice a week, depending on how often you flew the aircraft in combat.

The QRF is not a wonder weapon but simply another novel and useful use of the stealthy F-22, which depends on stealth and operating alone in many situations to achieve the best results. Thus, a few F-22s can carry out operations that less stealthy bombers would require many escorts to take care of enemy air defenses.

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