The US Air Force (USAF) has conducted operational test launches of air-to-air missiles from F-22 Raptors at the Utah Test and Training Range.

The launches were conducted to test the 3.2B incremental upgrade made to the Lockheed Martin-built fighter aircraft.

During the operational tests, the Raptors from the 411th Flight Test Squadron, 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, launched inert AIM-9 and AIM-120 missiles against multiple BQM-167A sub-scale aerial targets.

The flying targets were provided by a team from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron (ATRS), deployed from the 53d Weapons Evaluation Group.

82nd ATRS commander lieutenant colonel Matthew Garrison said: "We deployed a group of 15 active duty members, government civilians and contractors to launch, fly and recover up to eight BQM-167A targets over three days.”

The F-22's 3.2B modernisation upgrade is said to be the aircraft's biggest upgrade since reaching initial operating capability in December 2005.

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"It is expected to improve the service's air superiority and further support coalition efforts downrange."

It is expected to improve the service's air superiority and further support coalition efforts downrange, the USAF stated.

Garrison added: "Because we are the only Air Force unit with the aerial target mission, we take our responsibility for developmental and operational flight testers very seriously, including the deployments meeting them on their local ranges.”

The upgrade is expected to achieve initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) through 2018.

The F-22 Raptor is capable of collecting and sharing tactical information with friendly assets.

Image: A team from the 82nd Aerial Targets Squadron supported F-22 operational tests of air-to-air missiles against an aerial target. Photo: courtesy of the US Air Force.