August 12, 2010 (by SrA Alyssa C. Wallace) - More than 150 Airmen and 12 F-22 Raptors from the 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., arrived here July 31 in support of the Air Force's first Exercise Global Gem joint training.
SrA. Dez Watson, 43rd AMU crew chief, salutes F-22A block 10 no. 02-4032 as it taxis toward the Mountain Home AFB runway on August 6th, 2010. More than 150 Airmen and 12 F-22 Raptors from the 43rd FS arrived here July 31st in support of the Air Force’s first Exercise Global Gem joint training. [USAF photo by A1C. Debbie Lockhart]
Members of the 389th and 43rd Fighter Squadrons will continue their training through Sept. 2, during which the F-15E will fly against the Raptor as an adversary, or "red air," as well as next to the aircraft in a friendly "blue air" mission.
The local area also provides a chance for specialized training since the airspace and terrain allows the F-22 to employ air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities in mountainous areas, a vast difference from the environment they usually conduct training in.
"We brought the 43rd to Mountain Home for many reasons, mainly to work with the Strike Eagles here and get some similar training from a 'blue air' standpoint as well as use the ranges here for the mountainous terrain and the ability to drop inert weapons out there," said Lt. Col. Bradley Bird, 43rd FS
commander and F-22 pilot. "The majority of the flying we do is over the water. Obviously when we go to war, we're not always flying over water."
The land around Tyndall AFB
is flat with very few obstacles. According to Colonel Bird, Mountain Home's mountainous terrain requires a lot more attention to detail and a skill set the Raptor pilots are trying to provide the younger pilots with in case they're called on to fly over rugged terrain.
Capt. Jessica Hietpas, from the 389th Fighter Squadron, is one of several F-15E pilots who are supporting the 43rd by giving the Raptors a target to shoot. While flying against them, she was able to witness the aircraft's capabilities first-hand.
"We're starting from beyond visual range and moving into visual range, and they did exactly as advertised with the fifth generation fighter - you can't really see them until it's too late," she said.
The F-22 brings an extremely high-powered engine for high thrust-weight ratio which gives outstanding manoeuvrability, while its integrated avionics give an outstanding sensor sweep and low observability. The aircraft's advanced features separate it from the F-15E, but the colonel says the older aircraft "is still a viable platform in today's fight based on the numbers they have and the ordnance they can carry."
"If you look at the history of airpower, every time they build a new aircraft it's one step up," he said. "The F-22 is that next step in the advancement of American airpower."
As both squadrons practice manoeuvres during this month-long exercise, the advancement is apparent as they perform manoeuvres they may one day perform together during a real-world mission.
"It benefits us because we see what's going to be on our side once we integrate with them into some kind of larger scenario," Captain Hietpas said. "So instead of being targets, we'll be teamed with them into a package."
With the F-22's advancement and the F-15's capability to fight its way to a target over long ranges, the captain said she is happy to have the Raptors on her side.
"We'll have good guys watching out for us and we can focus on getting things on the ground," she said. "The Strike Eagle's a deep strike type platform, and we're multi-role, but it's also nice to have people who have your back in the air-to-air environment and are taking care of that, so you can focus on the deep strike mission."