Friday, December 16, 2005

Raptor Ready for Duty

Although its pilots have been training on the new fighter jet for almost a year now, the United States Air Force officially announced on Thursday the newest member of its fleet, the F-22A "Raptor," is ready for combat. Initially conceived in the cold war era of the 1980s, the Raptor's designs have been modified and enhanced to make it one of the Air Force's most advanced weapon systems, helping to maintain "continued joint air dominance despite advancing enemy threats."

In a Reuters story out of the nation's capital, it was reported that the new Raptor is "twice as reliable and three times more effective" than the F-15 Eagle fighter it will replace.
"If we go to war tomorrow, the Raptor will go with us," Gen. Ronald Keys, head of the Air Force's Air Combat command, said in a statement. He said it was ready for use in combat worldwide or for homeland defense.

The aircraft's role is to "kick the doors down" in a conflict, as Pentagon officials put it, knocking out defenses on the ground and in the air to clear the way for other warplanes and forces.
The Raptor combines low-observability, or stealth, with supersonic speed, agility and cockpit displays designed to boost greatly pilots' awareness of the situation around them.
And while the fighter pilots manning this newest weapon are impressed with its capabilities in the air, former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper reports that the sod-bound maintenance crews are happy as well:
General Jumper said that in the Raptor, those Airmen have been given an aircraft that is easier to maintain than aircraft of the past.

"When you go around the F/A-22 Raptor, you see all the crew chiefs and the mechanics doing the Toyota leap with how happy they are with what they've got," he said.

The F/A-22 includes an automated diagnostics system that tells maintainers what is wrong with the airplane and an engine that has all of the accessible hydraulics lines on the bottom side so it is easier to maintain, General Jumper said. Additionally, he said, the aircraft is designed to be maintained with only a small number of tools.
And while the first squadron of Raptors will make their initial home with the 1/27 Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, one only has to wonder where these birds may be deployed first in today's world of ever-escalating threat levels and the war against global terrorism.

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