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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, August 7, 2006

F-22s nearing duty in Pacific

By Senior Master Sgt. Deborah VanNierop
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs

An F-22 Raptor jet, a stealth fighter that will replace aging F-15s and F-117s, goes on a test flight. Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base has been selected as one of two operational hubs for the jets.

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MARIETTA, Ga. Pacific Air Forces officials got a glimpse into the future of fighter capability during a ceremony here in which the command's first F-22 Raptor was unveiled.

The Raptors already are in service at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, and have been getting rave reviews.

The aircraft shown at the Pacific Air Forces ceremony still is under construction and will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska beginning next year. The base will become home to two active-duty F-22 squadrons as well as a reserve associate squadron.

Pacific Air Forces officials said the command is one step closer to ushering in a new era in fighter capability.

"I'm excited about getting this incredible new air dominance capability into the Pacific," said Gen. Paul V. Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander. "F-22s based in Alaska in the near-term and Hawai'i in the midterm demonstrate the tremendous American commitment to the region by assuring security and stability for our nation, as well as for our friends and allies.

"In the future, the aircraft also will be assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawai'i. The 199th Fighter Squadron of the Hawai'i Air National Guard will fly the F-22 and the 531st Fighter Squadron will be an active associate squadron to them," he said.

The Air Force's newly operational Raptors, stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va., are leaving a powerful impression in the fighter community, officials said. In June, the F-22 was put to the test during Northern Edge 2006, a two-week joint service exercise in Alaska.

Maintenance for the Raptor also set benchmarks with mission completion by having an abort rate of less than 6.4 percent of all missions flown.

Perhaps even more impressive is how the F-22 is able to help other aircraft increase their performance, officials said. During Northern Edge, the Raptor was paired with joint-service jets such as F/A-18 Hornets, F-15 Eagles, F-15E Strike Eagles, E/A-6B Prowlers and E-2C Hawkeyes.

"The Raptor's success here (in Northern Edge) is something that should be shared among all the services, because it means our entire force has capabilities that it didn't have just a short time ago," said Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver, 27th Fighter Squadron commander at Langley.

Hester said the arrival of the F-22 in the Pacific will benefit the entire Air Force.

"I'm looking forward to leveraging all three components of our total force active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to squeeze every ounce of capability out of these great fighters," he said.