Distance kept the United States' fleet of F-22 Raptors out of the fight over Libya, Air Force officials revealed today after weeks of speculation on the matter.
Had Raptors been based in Europe or the Middle East, they would have been used in Operation Odyssey Dawn to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told the Senate Armed Services Committee Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee this morning.
He went on to say that mission planners putting together the operation together at breakneck speed chose "to use resources in close proximity" to Libya. The entire operation was put together with expediency in mind and therefore aircraft that were already stationed nearby were used, according to Schwartz.
"Clearly, had the F-22s been stationed in Europe in closer proximity [to Libya] and therefore more available, they undoubtedly would have been used," said Schwartz. "But as this came together fairly quickly, the judgment was made to apply the various tools we had in our toolkit using the resources that were in close proximity."
The four-star made a point to add that the decision to leave the F-22s home was "not an ad hominem against that weapons system at all; it really was an expedient judgment with respect to putting the plan together and executing it on a very rapid timeline."
Translation: The move to leave the F-22s stateside shouldn't be taken as a slight against the Raptors.
The air war has so far included fighters such as the U.S.' F-16, F-15E, F/A-18G, AV-8B and A-10, Britain's Eurofighter Typhoon and Tornado, and France's Rafale and Mirage. All these tactical jets have been working alongside B-2 Stealth bombers, B-1 Lancers, AC-130 gunships and a variety of intelligence and command and control planes.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley added that the F-22 is optimized for air-to-air combat while the vast majority of operations in Libya have been focused on air-to-ground strikes better handled by jets like the F-15E Strike Eagle and other "bombers." He added that the mission in Libya has shown the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation's bomber forces.