May 26, 2006 (by Capt. Elizabeth Kreft) - After flying more than 3,200 miles over land, ocean, mountains and glaciers, six F-22 Raptors arrived at Elmendorf AFB May 23 from Langley Air Force Base, Va.
Five Air Force F-22 Raptors taxi after arrival at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Tuesday May 23, 2006. Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., are supporting Exercise Northern Edge 2006. The Air Force has selected Elmendorf as the home for the next operational F-22 squadron. The base will receive 36 Raptors, with the first jet expected in fall 2007. [USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Dave Donovan]
Though it isn't the first time the Raptors have flown over snow-capped mountains, it is the first time they have flown outside of the continental United States.
"It feels great to be here," said Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver, 27th Fighter Squadron commander. "This is the longest continuous trip we've flown in this bird, so that gives us a great start to this entire visit."
The 27th FS
, the first operational Raptor squadron, brought an additional six jets into town May 24 and 25, making it a dozen F-22s that will nest here for the next six weeks.
The 12 Raptors, 18 pilots, 174 maintainers -- as well as other Raptor support personnel -- will participate in Northern Edge, Alaskan Command's joint exercise June 5 to 16.
In Northern Edge, more than 5,000 U.S. active duty and reserve-component military members will work in a joint environment to enhance their ability to rapidly respond to a regional contingency.
"We are excited to bring the Raptor into the mix here. It is extremely important to test the interoperability between emerging weapons systems and the current operational tools on the Air Force and joint level," Colonel Tolliver said.
Part of the interest here in the Raptor stems from the fact that this base will be the next operational location to house F-22s. These next few weeks of cooperation and education will be valuable for both the 3rd Wing and the 1st Fighter Wing.
"We know that we will be working closely together in the near future, so this is an excellent opportunity to get to know some of the people and processes that we will encounter as we bring F-22s to Alaska," said Col. Randy Roberts, 3rd Operations Group commander.
"Building solid working relationships before the start of this Raptor process will make everything about this transition easier for our Airmen," he said.
After participating in Northern Edge, the 27th FS will remain here through June. Colonel Tolliver said his squadron's goal is to get as much training in as possible.
"This will be another opportunity for our deployment team to test several layers of our supply chain and out-of-town operations," Colonel Tolliver said. "Bringing the F-22 here, away from our support structure at Langley, gives us the ability to prepare for future deployments that will take us even farther across the globe."