January 28, 2006 (by Tech. Sgt. Eric M. Grill) - The Air Force Chief of Staff nominated the F-22 Combined Test Force here for the National Aeronautic Association's 2005 Robert J. Collier Trophy.
An F-22A Raptor refuels from a KC-135R Stratotanker Jan. 21. This refueling was part of the Raptor's first operational mission. The KC-135 is with the 916th Air Refueling Wing. [U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shane Dunaway]
The trophy is awarded annually for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year, NAA officials said on their Web site, www.naa.aero.
"Over the past year the F-22 CTF has done some truly significant things to bring the F-22 to Initial Operational Capability at Langley (Air Force Base, Va.)," said Lt. Col. Ray Toth, F-22 Combined Test Force and 411th Flight Test Squadron commander.
One of the main reasons for the award nomination, Colonel Toth said, is the reaction the men and women had to an incident in 2004, which caused the complete dismantling and rebuilding of two F-22 test aircraft.
During a flight test in late 2004, the primary F-22 test aircraft went through the jet wake of another aircraft and the flight control computers put the aircraft to G-force levels engineers had not anticipated it would reach, he said.
"The CTF essentially took two aircraft and did depot-level maintenance [here] in the CTF," he said. "Our maintainers did amazing work to bring two airplanes up to a condition where we could continue flight test work to be able to give Langley pilots, basically the operators, a full envelope for the aircraft."
The depot-level maintenance included taking off the wings, completely removing the weapons bay doors, the rudders, the vertical and horizontal tails, and together with the CTF instrumentation folks completely rewiring the airplane to instrument hundreds of parameters, Colonel Toth said.
"[The CTF] had it flying again in approximately eight months, which is a Herculean effort," Colonel Toth said.
Besides the depot-level maintenance, the CTF also accomplished other milestones like clearing the aircraft to use the AIM-120
Advanced Medium-range Air-to-Air Missile; performing the first-ever supersonic Joint Direct Attack Munition delivery from an internal weapons bay and completing handling quality tests for the external fuel tank modifications to the aircraft.
The external tank modifications "gives us -- in low-threat time-sensitive targeting (environments) like in Iraq
-- the capability to loiter for extended periods of time and still be able to support the warfighter on the ground with JDAMs
," Colonel Toth said.
Talking about what it means to be the Air Force nomination for the Robert J. Collier Trophy, Colonel Toth said the men and women of the F-22 Combined Test Force are finally being recognized for the truly amazing accomplishment that they have brought to the United States Air Force in the form of the F-22. They work really hard to make sure the F-22 is the premier fighter aircraft in the world, and that it will stay that way for many years to come.