February 9, 2007 (by SMSgt Charles Ramey) - The first overseas operational deployment of the Air Force's newest fighter is underway as 12 F-22 Raptors landed here Feb. 7 en route to Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The first of 12 F-22 Raptors lands for a brief layover Feb. 7 at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. The F-22s and more than 250 Airmen from the 27th FS at Langley AFB, Virginia, are bound for Kadena Air Base, Japan, for the aircaft's first overseas operational deployment. Seen here is Raptor #03-4049. [USAF photo by TSgt Shane A. Cuomo]
The aircraft and more than 250 Airmen from the 27th Fighter Squadron from Langley AFB
, Va., are supporting the U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Package in the Western Pacific.
Thirteenth Air Force is responsible for F-22 operations while they are in theater. Lt. Gen. Loyd S. Utterback, the 13th Air Force commander, stressed that the deployment is not in response to any specific situation in the region.
"The United States routinely evaluates its readiness and repositions forces throughout the Western Pacific to meet its security obligations. The F-22 deployment is the latest example of the flexibility that U.S. forces have to meet ongoing commitments within the region," he said.
In addition to the F-22, other Air Force aircraft have also temporarily deployed to the Pacific including B-1 Lancers, B-2 Spirits, B-52 Stratofortreses, F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-117 Nighthawks.
"Versatile mission platforms give Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines the ability to operate in today's constantly changing threat environments," General Utterback said.
"Forward-basing aircraft such as the F-22 and other air assets gives commanders the capability to respond to any contingency, anywhere in the theater in minimal time."
As the Air Force works to transform its air, space and cyberspace operations across the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations, the upcoming deployment of the F-22 into the theater and eventual permanent beddown of the Air Force's newest fighter in Alaska and Hawaii are the latest examples of the United States' continuing commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.
"The F-22 will lead and enable the joint force to operate at will without interference from an opposing force in the Pacific and throughout the rest of the world for years to come," General Utterback said.
The 27th Fighter Squadron, the Air Force's first frontline F-22 fighter squadron, reached initial operational capability in December 2005. Although this is the first overseas deployment for the aircraft, it is not the squadron's first deployment from Langley AFB.
In October 2005, the squadron deployed to Hill AFB, Utah, where F-22 pilots practiced their unique flight tactics and dropped inert Joint Directed Attack Munitions.
The squadron deployed to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, in May and participated in joint training during Northern Edge 2006.
"We had phenomenal successes during these deployments and exercises," said Brig. Gen. Burt Field, 1st Fighter Wing commander. "We've taken the lessons we've learned and applied them back here, and we've continued to develop the weapons system every day."
While deployed to Kadena AB, members of the 27th FS
will showcase the capabilities of the F-22 as they train with Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps units.
"We're eager to assist U.S. Pacific Command, helping to ensure an environment of security and stability to support and foster freedom and prosperity throughout the Asia-Pacific Region," General Field said. "This is what we train for, and we're ready."
A transformational combat aircraft, the F-22 is effectively invisible to threats, cruises at supersonic speeds, is highly maneuverable and provides an unprecedented level of integrated situational awareness.
1st Lt. Rachel Sherburne of the 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
contributed to this story