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By Kris Osborn

... is performing very well in its first ever combat missions bombing Islamic State forces over Iraq and Syria, service leaders said Sept. 15.

Praising its stealthy super-cruise speeds, maneuverability and ability to help other aircraft in the U.S.-led coalition, the Commander of Air Combat Command called the F-22 an "aerial quarterback" in the ongoing bombing efforts against ISIS. The F-22 formally entered efforts in Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Sryia not long after the bombing campaign began.

Speaking at the Air Force Association Annual Air & Space Conference at National Harbor, Md., Gen. Hawk Carlisle said the exemplary performance of the F-22 underscores the fact that the Air Force has not built enough of the stealth fighters. 

"If you look at how we are using them today and how they might be used in the future, we don't have enough of them," Carlisle said. "They are doing incredible work and what the airmen are doing flying those things is phenomenal."  

Carlisle said the Air Force currently has 180 F-22 fighters and that the service would be well served to have more of them moving into the future.

He cited the importance of keeping pace with or staying in front of potential rivals such as Russia and China who are each respectively developing stealth fighters. Carlisle mentioned the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter and Russia's PAK-FA T-50 stealth aircraft of evidence that the U.S. Air Force will need to work vigorously to sustain its technological edge. 

The F-22 will be needed to fly alongside and supplement the emerging F-35A Joint Strike Fighter which is slated to become operational next year.  

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"There will be a combination of F-22s and F-35s in the future," Carlisle said. 

By referring to it as an "aerial quarterback," Carlisle seemed to be making reference to the F-22s sensors, targeting ability, avionics and communications technology which allow the aircraft to relay information to command and control centers and other allied aircraft involved in the mission. 

In total, the Air Force plans to acquire more than 1,700 F-35As. Also, Carlisle emphasized that, in the future, stealth technology will likely be integrated with next-generation electronic warfare technology designed to help aircraft further evade detection.  This is in part necessary due to fast-improving technology in the area of air defenses which can increasingly detect aircraft at further ranges.

First operational in 2005, the F-22 is a multi-role fighter designed with stealth technology to evade enemy radar detection and speeds able to reach Mach 2 with what is called "super-cruise" capability. Supercruise is the ability to cruise at supersonic airspeeds such as 1.5 Mach without needing afterburner, a capability attributed to the engine thrust and aerodynamic configuration of the F-22. 

The F-22 is built with two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners, Air Force statements said. 

The aircraft has a 44-foot wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of more than 83,000 pounds. 

The F-22's sensors are engineered to detect enemy fighters at longer distances than earlier aircraft can by using a combination of sensors and a radar warning receiver.

The fighter is built for air-to-air and air-to-ground engagements and can fire a wide range of weapons. Some of these include GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, as well as AIM-120s (Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile) and AIM-9 Sidewinders for air-to-air engagements.