The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor has long been considered the absolute best air superiority fighter in the world – yet in July, a Filipino pilot flying a Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50H light fighter achieved an air-to-air "kill" against the Raptor during the Exercise Cope Thunder.
"Fox 2! Killed one Raptor on right turn!," the pilot was heard declaring, according to a recently published report in the official journal of the 5th Fighter Wing, Air Defense Command of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
The encounter came in the airspace over the Luzon Islands. This was of course not a real kill and was only simulated, but it is still notable – while raising a few questions, including whether the U.S. pilot went "easy" on his "adversary."
"This is a historic achievement as the lead-in Philippine Air Force aircraft have engaged and defeated fifth-generation fighter aircraft in an air combat simulation in the airspace over Luzon during the Cope Thunder exercise," stated the official journal report.
Images of the simulated Fox 2 kill against the F-22 have been shared on X – the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
The Capable South Korean Fighter
The FA-50PH is a variant of the light combat aircraft developed by the South Korean-based Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with assistance from Lockheed Martin as the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle. It was South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers, and first entered service with the Republic of Korea Air Force in 2005.
The Philippine Air Force ordered a dozen of the FA-50PH fighter aircraft in 2014, and deliveries began a year later. It has also been adopted by the air forces of Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Poland, and Thailand.
Not the First Aerial "Kill" of an F-22
The dogfight in July was not the first time that an F-22 Raptor had been "shot down" in a simulated engagement.
As previously reported, a Raptor fell victim to a Mirage 2000 during a 2009 joint exercise with the French Air Force, the UK Royal Air Force, and the UAE Air Force. One Emirati Mirage 2000 managed to defeat the F-22 in a mock dogfight, while a French Rafale also scored a kill.
The U.S. Air Force initially denied the incident, but the French Air Force released the cockpit footage to prove it had beaten the best.
Three years later, a German Air Force's Eurofighter Typhoon excelled in "Within Visual Range" (WVR) air engagement, where an F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft could not leverage its advantages in terms of stealth, radar, and other sensors during a 2012 "Red Flag" exercise in Alaska.
Return of Exercise Cope Thunder
This year marked the return of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces-sponsored Cope Thunder, the bilateral exercise that aims to improve the interoperability of the United States and the Philippines through fighter training.
It was first held in 1976 in the Philippines, but in 1992 was moved to Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska, and eventually renamed Red Flag Alaska. It was last held in the Philippines in 1990.
Two events actually took place this year to mark its return.
The first was in May, which began the same day that Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr., met with President Joe Biden at the White House to mark the close defense partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines.
It was during the second Cope Thunder 23-2 in July – which involved approximately 225 service members from the United States and the Philippines and a variety of aircraft – when the FA-50 made its "kill" of the F-22.
Author Experience and Expertise
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
All images are Creative Commons.