July 9, 2010 (by TSgt. Michelle Thomas) - The Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing welcomed the first of its new inventory of F-22's today during a ceremony at 09.00h.
USAF F-22A block 20 no. 03-4045 flying over the Pacific Ocean on its way to its new home, Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam on July 2nd, 2010. The 199th FS of the HIANG is transitioning from the F-15 and will serve as the only ANG led joint Guard and Active Duty squadron in the Pacific and the second in the USAF. [USAF photo by SrA. Gustavo Gonzalez]
Two of the twenty jets that will eventually make up its war-fighting cadre rolled onto the tarmac and were greeted by a mixed audience of Guardsman, Active Duty, and government dignitaries, to include Governor Linda Lingle and Senator Daniel Inouye.
Following a traditional Hawaiian blessing of Hawaiian water and it leaves by Kahu Kordell Kekoa, Governor Linda Lingle spoke of the significance of the arrival.
"The arrival of the F-22 represents the "unique relationship between us (the state of Hawaii) and the United States Air Force," said Lingle.
"The F-22s will come under the Hawaii Air National Guard in partnership with the active duty" and the arrival today is "a testament to America's technological capabilities," said Lingle, referring to the Total Force initiative of combining active duty and reserve forces.
The HIANG is now the second Air National Guard unit to fly the Raptor, with more units slated to convert to the operationally superior aircraft during the next several years.
The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions providing a diverse aerial combat capability. The two jets today are jets previously flown at Tyndall Air Force Base; the remaining 18 aircraft will come from Langley Air Force Base,Va.
The F-22 Raptors replace the F-15 Eagles that the 154th's flying unit, the 199th Fighter Squadron, has flown since 1987. The F-22 is designed to counter lethal threats posed by advanced surface-to-air missile systems and next-generation fighters equipped with launch-and-leave missile capability.
Its predecessor, the F-15, entered the Air Force inventory in 1975 and there is now parity between the F-15 and potentially hostile foreign air superiority aircraft. The F-22 provides the U.S. Air Force air dominance for the 21st century, with a "first-look, first-shot, first-kill" capability. The Raptor can see the enemy first.
Pilots from the 199th Fighter Squadron are now in the process of getting "trained up" for the conversion. Both full-time and traditional pilots will go through a four-month long transition course (also known as a TX course) for experienced pilots transferring from other fighter aircraft types.
"All of our pilots will go through the school at Tyndall Air Force Base (in Florida)," said Lt. Col. James Sage, HIANG fighter pilot and action officer for the conversion. "Two have finished and hopefully by the end of 2012, the majority of our guys should have completed the training.
Once all of the planes arrive, the aircraft will be piloted by both an active duty unit and by the Guard.
"Seventy-five percent of the mission will be manned by the 154th with the other 25 percent being covered by the active duty personnel," added Sage.
An active duty detachment squadron, the 19th Fighter Squadron, will complement the new flying configuration.
Sage, the action officer for the conversion, noted that there are several benefits of having a unit fly the superior aircraft in what might be considered a remote location.
"We are a day closer to the fight," said Sage. "Logistically, we are a stopping off point for other F-22 units so we would be able to support any training and aircraft 'housing' requirements."
The conversion to the F-22 comes a year after legislation was signed stopping future procurement of the modern war-fighting machine. A final inventory of 187 jets will be dispersed, with the Guard gaining some of the final assets.
"It's an exciting time surely for Team Hickam," said Gen. Craig McKinley, Chief, National Guard Bureau. The arrival of the F-22 "speaks volumes for the importance of Hawaii's geographic and strategic position in our nation's defense."
McKinley also added that the arrival "marks the first time an Air National Guard unit, the 199th Fighter Squadron, has taken the position of lead squadron in an associate flying unit.
Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt advocated the purchase of F-22 fighters to secure the Guard's homeland defense mission in the future. According to statements made by Wyatt in 2009, the ANG
is facing a serious risk of becoming unable to fulfill the Nations highest strategic priority: defending the Homeland.
According to senior leaders like Wyatt, fifth generation fighters like the F-22 and the F-35 are key elements of our Nation's defense. "As long as hostile nations recognize that U.S. airpower can strike their vital centers with impunity, all other U.S. Government
efforts are enhanced, which reduces the need for military confrontation, while avoiding detection." Using a combination of stealth, advanced manoeuvrability and integrated avionics, the F-22A can counter and defeat threats that will attempt to deny access to friendly forces.
Both government and military officials from Hawaii advocated for the state to be next on the list of Air Guard units to convert to the F-22.
Hawaii's Senator Daniel Inouye, whose work was instrumental in bringing the F-22 to Hawaii, said, "The presence of the F-22 demonstrates the importance of this area in the Pacific Command."
"The F-22 will be the major instrument of deterrence in this part of the world," said Senator Inouye. "I think that Hawaii's selection demonstrates that we are fully capable of doing the mission."