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F-22 visits Hill for modifications

April 6, 2006 (by Mitch Shaw) - The excitement was intense Friday as the first of many F-22 Raptors arrived at Hill Air Force base for some minor modifications.

The first of 18 F-22s arrived at Hill AFB on Friday to receive minor modifications. The F-22 Raptor is scheduled to depart Hill May 11.

A total of 18 F-22s are expected to come through Hill to receive modifications similar to the work that will be done on the first plane.

"We are going to enhance refueling capability and do a couple minor structural modifications to the jet," said Col. Ken Merchant, vice commander at the Ogden Air Logistics Center. "This is the beginning of a lot more work that will come in to this ALC. In the long run, we will end up with the wheel and tire and landing gear work."

Col. Kyle MacDonald, 309th Maintenance Wing, said the arrival of the Raptor signifies the future of Hill.

"We will be handling a lot of the stealth fighters here and doing a lot of modifications," Colonel MacDonald said. "As far as new employment, we expect a lot of work to come to Hill."

The jet was piloted by Maj. Evan Dertien, who flew from Langley AFB, Va., stopped to re-fuel at Whiteman AFB, Mo., and then landed at Hill where he was greeted by local media with plenty of questions.

"I definitely wasn’t expecting any of this," said Major Dertien. "It really makes me feel welcome though."

Dertien said the technological advances of the Raptor put it 20 years ahead of anything else out there.

"Basically there are four big things about it that differ from our other legacy fighters," Major Dertien said. "The capability to supercruise, our integrated avionics, the maneuverability of the overall jet, combined with the stealth it has, and basically nobody can see us coming. It’s a leap in technology from what we have had before."

Major Dertien, who has done three tours in Iraq, mostly flying F-15s, said as good as the plane is to talk about, it’s even better to fly.

"When I went into the Air Force Academy the plane was still in its very early development, so a chance to actually fly the F-22 has been an awesome experience," he said. "I think everyone volunteered for this (job)."

A key difference between the F-22 and the F-15s that Major Dertien flew in Iraq, is the fact that all of the F-22's missiles are internal, making the plane fly the same at all times.

"Flying with an F-15 with nothing on it is a totally different
experience than flying an F-15 that you take to combat because in combat, it has eight additional missiles and possibly some bombs, depending on how it's configured," Major Dertien said. "With the F-22, everything is internal, so whether the jet is ready to go to war, or coming out here to Hill, it flies exactly the same."

Dertien said the sheer speed of the jet is yet another component that makes it so formidable. The jet usually flies at around Mach 1.5, which translates to about 1,000 miles per hour, but it’s advertised as a Mach 2 fighter.

"The speed gives your missiles a whole bunch more energy, and also as soon as you turn (the aircraft) it makes it a lot tougher for the other guy to shoot you," Major Dertien said. "And oh, by the way, he probably didn’t see us until well after we launched our missiles; they are about to impact him when he gets his first indication that we’re even there."

The F-22 Raptor will stay at Hill for a little over a month for the modification and is scheduled to depart May 11

Republished with kind permission of Hilltop Times.

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