In recent days, US and allied aircraft, including Dassault Rafale fighters, have struck numerous targets in Iraq and Syria as part of the bombing campaign against the Islamic State. This campaign, just recently begun, has already revealed several facts:
1) The F-22 has seen actual combat (not merely interceptions of enemy aircraft) for the first time, thus belying forever the false claims that it’s a hangar queen. And it has performed magnificently, delivering significant payloads against enemy targets, hitting them with pinpoint precision, and not causing any civilian casualties. For my rebuttals of the smears against the F-22 Raptor, see here and here.
2) Even a bombing campaign against a mid-sized stateless enemy such as the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (in reality, a jihadist movement) in a mid-sized country like Iraq (and parts of Syria) requires a huge amount of aircraft, ordnance (payloads), and fuel and the involvement of many foreign allies – both those providing combat aircraft and those providing bases. Think how huge the scale of any bombing campaign against Iran and North Korea, let alone Russia, would have to be!
3) For this campaign, the USAF and friendly AFs have bases available throughout the region for their aircraft to take off… at least for now. But if US allies in the region were to deny those bases to the US for any reason (be it fear from reprisals from jihadists, domestic political opposition, or any other reason whatsoever), ALL American and allied tactical aircraft (fighters, strike aircraft, drones, etc.) would be completely and immediately eliminated from the equation. This cannot be ruled out – US allies in the region (other than Israel) could very well bend before terrorist blackmail one day, and even if they don’t, the local peoples hate the US and the West and will eventually demand that the US be barred from using their bases. It is therefore all the more imperative that the US quickly develop and field, in large quantities, the planned family of long-range strike weapons, including a new bomber, a new cruise missile, the Virginia Payload Module, and Prompt Global Strike weapons.
4) This is probably one of the last campaigns ever that the US will conduct against a primitive adversary like a terrorist organization (such as ISIL) – a campaign in which the opponent will not contest America’s control of the air and the sea. In future wars, however, you can be sure as hell that the enemy WILL contest control of the air, whether that enemy will be Iran, North Korea, China, or Russia.