“My favourite time was a Raptor four-ship versus 12 F-15Cs and we’re like, ‘Let’s see how quick we can kill these guys,’” Mike ‘Dozer’ Shower F-15 Eagle and F-22 Raptor fighter pilot.
Mike ‘Dozer’ Shower graduated top of his class and got the pick of the various seats available to a USAF pilot — including slots as an F-111 pilot and a variety of places as an F-15C fighter pilot. He recalls in Bertie Simmonds’ book F-15 Eagle: “So, I picked the F-15C slot at Elmendorf, Alaska, and went from Tyndall in Florida up to Elmendorf, but my first F-15 flight was out of Tyndall in a two-seater and my second flight was one of those max performance take-offs. So many things are happening at once: it was summertime in Florida, hot and humid; trying to catch up with the airplane as an F-15 in military dry power is like a T-38 in full afterburner! It takes time to work it out: eventually your mind catches up. It was like Star Wars when they hit light speed.”
Dozer was in the F-15C community right at its peak during the 1990s through to the 2000s. He says: “Back then the F-15 was the best plane out there: it reigned supreme. It flew high (until the F-22 came along), had a big radar, but it was the weapons and training and sensors that made it.” Mike would get a MiG-29 kill during Operation Allied Force over Bosnia on Mar. 24, 1999, ripple-firing an AIM-120 and an AIM-7 Sparrow. So, let’s talk F-15C versus F-22A Raptor: Dozer?
“In an F-15 you’re sensor operator, you’re working the radar; you’re the guy working this all out and managing the systems and putting together the 3D picture in your head. That’s the difference with the F-22 Raptor. It does it all for you … you could take four weapons instructors in an F-15 each and you could have some lieutenant who is ‘weapons clueless’ and he’s gonna find them all and kill them all. Then you put one really good guy in an F-15 against a Raptor and he’s still gonna get killed; there’s that much of a difference in technology. It’s about sensors and training.”
In 2001 there was a request for experienced pilots, F-15C pilots and ex-weapons school and that meant that Dozer was going to get lucky and get to test the F-22 Raptor. He says: “By 2002 the Raptor was a hit behind time — the airframe and stuff was good, just not the electronics. I kinda termed the phrase ‘offensive stealth and defensive stealth’ as the F-22 can be offensive but the likes of the B-2 Spirit and F-117A Nighthawk have to run and hide, right? The F-22 is a different use: it flies fast and high, the F-117 is low and slow, while the B-2 is high and slow.”
Initially — at Edwards Air Force Base — as is usual with a new platform, getting things to ‘work’ was an issue. Dozer says: “I was at Edwards for about a year and a half and we had a hard time to get two planes to work at same time. First day we had two planes to work, we had Langley F-15s next door and we are like: `Hey, we’ve got two planes working; wanna come fly against us?’
“So we hop in the jets and set up the two of us; we’ve done simulator stuff but we’re not sure it will work. We take off, we’ve got tankers, we’ve got the F-15s and we try our tactics out. We set up the battles against different numbers of F-15s, up to eight against two Raptors and they just never saw us. We could hear them saying: ‘Hey, where are you at?’ and we are a mile behind them. These were combat-experienced pilots we’re talking about. It was really cool. This proved what the F-22 could do. I had one guy who had worked on the F-22 programme come up to us almost crying, saying: `Hey you validated my whole life’s work.’
“We tested against F-15s, F-16s and then people realised it wasn’t a joke or a theory: the F-22 worked. My favourite time was a Raptor four-ship versus 12 F-15Cs and we’re like, ‘Let’s see how quick we can kill these guys’ So we hook up way up high and supersonic and they can’t take a shot and they’re running away at Mach 1 and we kill them in two minutes or so. I was thinking, ‘This thing is unbelievable.’ When the sensors work and each plane talks to each other, the Raptor is nearly untouchable when things are right. The F-22 versus a 4th-generation fighter is like having two football teams against each other and one of them [the F-22] is invisible!”