January 10, 2009 (by Maj. John S. Hutcheson) - Six F-22 Raptors arrived at Kadena Air Base today as part of a three-month deployment in support of U.S. Pacific Command's security obligations in the Western Pacific.
F-22 Raptors land at Kadena AB on January 10th, 2009. These aircraft are deployed from Langley AFB as part of an air expeditionary force rotation. [USAF photo by A1C. Amanda Grabiec]
The planes landed around 4 p.m. under partly cloudy skies after a 10-hour flight from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
The F-22s, part of the 27th Fighter Squadron, are deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va. This is the second deployment of Langley-based Raptors to Kadena; the first occurred in February 2007. About 250 maintenance and combat support personnel arrived here earlier in the week in preparation for the arrival of the Raptors.
Bringing the F-22 back to the Far East is both a reflection of the U.S.'s commitment to the region as well as an opportunity to demonstrate the plane's expeditionary capability.
"First and foremost, it's only our 2nd deployment overseas, so it's a chance to exercise in that capacity to meet the U.S. Air Force's worldwide obligations," said Lt. Col. David Nardi, a pilot with the 27th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. "We're extremely excited to be here supporting the U.S.-Japan security alliance, and we look forward to strengthening that relationship during this deployment.
Colonel Nardi is one of 59 Air National Guard members on this deployment who fly and support the F-22 at Langley Air Force Base, making this a unique Total Force effort.
"This is a great opportunity for us to train with other U.S. units in the region and help carry out their mission of maintaining security in the Pacific," added Colonel Nardi.
For the Kadena Air Base, the Raptor deployment allows it a unique opportunity to integrate its operations with the Air Force's newest air superiority fighter and to exercise one of its core missions - to receive and bed down additional forces.
"The 18th Wing is extremely proud to host the 27th Fighter Squadron and the F-22 Raptor at Kadena Air Base," said Colonel Lenny Richoux, 18th Wing vice commander. "This deployment demonstrates the mutual importance of both the Raptor's unmatched combat power and Kadena Air Base as a forward power projection platform."
Colonel Richoux and Colonel Ronald Banks, 18th Operations Group Commander, were on hand to greet the first six Raptor pilots as they arrived at Kadena today.
"This deployment of F-22s to Kadena is a key force projection event and signifies the importance the U.S. gives to our alliance with Japan," said Colonel Banks. "Additionally, the presence of the Raptor is a major flexible deterrent option that 13th Air Force has to show "would-be" adversaries that the U.S. is committed to ensuring peace and stability in this region."
The F-22 is the United States Air Force's most advanced air superiority fighter. Its combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capability.
"The airplane truly is a game changer," said Colonel Nardi. "It brings capabilities to the fight that no other airplane has, and it's exciting to have a chance to bring this capability to the Pacific theater."
As part of continuing force posture adjustments to address worldwide requirements, the United States regularly deploys additional forces throughout the Western Pacific. In addition to the Kadena deployment, 12 Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska-based Raptors will deploy to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The last six F-22s will arrive at Kadena Jan. 12.