An F-22 Just Blew Up a Heroin Drug Lab During Its First Combat Mission in Afghanistan

The Raptor blew the Taliban’s heroin factory to pieces. But is this a smart way to use the world’s best fighter jet?

The F-22 Raptor, possibly the most advanced fighter plane in the world, just bombed a drug lab in Afghanistan. The incident marked the first time that the F-22 has dropped bombs in anger. But a larger question overshadows the airstrike: Is it really necessary to use a plane that costs nearly $70,000 per hour to bomb an undefended drug factory?

The bombing was part of Operation Jagged Edge, a campaign to attack Taliban drug production. Heroin is one of the main moneymakers for the Taliban, who use it to fund their guerrilla war against the Afghan government and its American backers. Most of this heroin is funneled to Europe and Canada, with only a small amount reaching the United States. According to U.S. Forces Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson, there are between 400 and 500 drug production sites in country at any one time.

Here’s video from the bombing:

The military has wanted to go after these facilities for some time, but the rules of engagement say air power can only be used only to defend Afghan troops. These rules were recently expanded to allow U.S. forces greater latitude in target planning, hence Jagged Knife. According to Defense News, the operation destroyed 10 drug facilities in one night.

The use of a F-22 Raptor to bomb a drug site was reportedly driven by several factors. One, the targets were in an area with civilians nearby, and that required a precision weapon with a small explosive payload. The Small Diameter Bomb, a 250-lb. precision-guided bomb that can fly more than 45 miles to strike targets, was the obvious and perhaps only choice for the task. Here’s video of the SDB loaded on a F-22.

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Henry Sapiecha

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