F-22 Raptor News

Air National Guard lobbies to fly F-22 fleet

March 8, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - Oregon Air National Guard are mounting a vigorous campaign to bring the F-22 to the state to help patrol the West Coast according to The Oregonian.

Guard officials unveiled a cockpit demonstrator on Friday for the F-22 Raptor at the Portland Air National Guard Base.

Col. John Kent, commander of the Guard's 142nd Fighter Wing, said the F-22s are "critical to us pursuing our mission" of protecting the Pacific Coast.

"My job is to make sure that our people get the best equipment in order for them to do their jobs," Kent said.

US Air Force officials want to replace the vulnerable workhorse the F-15 with the F-22. The $30 million F-15 has recently hit the headlines due to problems found after one of the airframes broke apart in November during a simulated dog fight due to a structual failure. This resulted in nearly 700 F-15s being grounded, tracing the problem to structural cracks in a piece of equipment known as a longeron located behind the cockpit.

In Oregon, there are 45 F-15s split between the Air National Guard Base at Portland and the 173rd Fighter Wing at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls. All of Portland F-15s returned to service. While 23 of the 173rds are flying again, with two being inspected and repaired.

Roughly 160 of the F-15s in the Air Force inventory have been found to have defects and will remain grounded until they can be repaired. Six will be scrapped because they have too much damage.

Kent says the damaged planes are a signal that it's time to make some changes in equipment.

"We have an F-15 that's getting a lot older," Kent said. "We don't have a follow-on plane that will help us carry out our mission like the F-22 would. My job is to get our personnel the equipment they need to protect this coast."

He added that he and other fighter wing commanders in California, Florida and Massachusetts are working to convince Air Force officials and members of congress that the "four corners" of the United States could use the F-22s. Under this plan, 96 F-22s would be divided amongst the four states.

"People are using the language about the four corners, so that's good for us" in Oregon, Kent said. "We've been working hard over the last eight to 10 months to convince everyone that this is worthwhile."

Friday's showing of the cockpit demonstrator was designed to put Oregon at the center in the debate for which states will get the F-22, there is still an issue with the cost.

Each F-22 costs around $160 million, and this has created a stir among politicians. The Air Force originally requested 381 F-22s to be built, but budget restrictions have limited the purchase to 183.