Nearly nine years after it entered service, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor has finally seen its first combat duty. The troubled, expensive stealth plane, which was originally intended to be America's primary, next-gen fighter until its early cancellation in 2011, took part in the airstrikes against Syria and the Islamic State earlier this week.

Despite their limited numbers – only 187 were built – F-22s are no strangers to the Middle East, as they've been regular fixtures at the al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates.

According to Defense One, the F-22s stationed at al-Dhafra, which were never confirmed by the Department of Defense, but were spotted via satellite, were originally intended to deter Iranian nuclear ambition. Their presence and abilities, though, combined with the sophistication of Syria's air defenses, made them a difficult asset to pass up.

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