Sunday, February 11, 2007

Hickam Gets a Look at Raptors

Posted on: Friday, February 9, 2007
Hickam gets a look at stealthy Raptors

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE- The stealthy F-22A Raptor this week made its first stop in Hawai'i, appearing small on radar but creating a big buzz as the Air Force moves ahead with plans to base 20 of the fighter aircraft at Hickam starting in late 2010.

Six of the sleek gray jets arrived Wednesday from Virginia, and six more landed yesterday en route to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, on what is the first deployment for the Raptors outside the United States.

"It's very important that we send it to Japan because of our strategic alliance that we have with Japan," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Remington, Pacific Air Forces director of air space and cyberspace operations.

The Raptors can reach supersonic speed without afterburners, are highly maneuverable and "it's basically invisible to radars," Remington said.

The Hawai'i Air National Guard will be the first Guard unit to "own" the Air Force's most advanced weapons system, while the active duty Air Force at Hickam will be an associate unit and also fly and maintain the aircraft.

"We're excited, obviously," said Air Guard Lt. Col. Chris "Frenchy" Faurot, 40, who will be flying the jets. "When the announcement was made back in March of last year, everyone was walking around with a grin on their face."

The Hawai'i basing is part of what Gen. Paul Hester, commander of Pacific Air Forces, calls the "strategic triangle" of Hawai'i, Alaska and Guam,” bases
from which the Air Force can rapidly deploy forces throughout Asia and the


In August, the Air Force will locate an F-22 squadron in Alaska, and add another squadron in 2008. The third of three squadrons will arrive in Hawai'i starting in late 2010.

The aircraft, whose angular shape and internal weapons bays contribute to a radar signature the size of a bird, is one of the costliest fighters ever at more than $339 million a copy, including research, development and testing.

In the fighters' first major exercise, Northern Edge, in June in Alaska, the Raptors from Langley Air Force Base that are now passing through Hickam "downed" 144 other jets.

"We didn't lose a Raptor, not one," said Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver, commander of the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley. "That's pretty incredible numbers."

The jets will leave today for Japan and will stay there as long as four months. The Pacific Air Forces' Remington said the F-22s replaced F-15C aircraft at Langley and it happened to be the unit's turn in the rotation of aircraft for the "theater security" deployment.

The Raptors also will be replacing F-15 Eagles at Hickam. The Air Guard aircraft, in addition to having an air defense role for Hawai'i, deployed to Saudi Arabia in 2000 and conducted combat missions over southern Iraq.


In the 1990s there were two other deployments to the region. The air defense mission has seen a succession of aircraft since 1956, meanwhile, with the F-86, F-102, F-4 and most recently, the F-15, the Air Guard said.

Faurot, a Damien High graduate who now flies the F-15, said the Raptor brings greater capabilities, but the public won't notice much of a difference.

"It's a more powerful aircraft, it's faster, it's louder, so there may be a little increase in noise," he said. "However, that will be for a shorter duration because we get out of the airspace and we get out of the public view, if you will, a lot faster than we do with the F-15s."

Once the aircraft gets to cruise mode at 30,000 to 40,000 feet, it also gets somewhat more economical.

"It's actually pretty much sipping gas, so once you get it up there, it's a pretty efficient machine and we're still going supersonic," Faurot said.


An environmental impact study is expected to be done in July. Brig. Gen. Peter Pawling, who commands the 154th Wing of the Hawai'i Air National Guard, said work still is being done for eight C-17 cargo carriers that are now based at Hickam” including a giant hangar now being built.

But Pawling said he estimates $155 million in construction will be needed for the Raptors for facilities like hangars and maintenance buildings.

Those who saw the Raptor up close yesterday, including about 60 University of Hawai'i Air Force ROTC cadets, were pretty impressed. An inert AIM-9 missile was affixed to a side bay.

"I think it's awesome," said Ira Mindoro, 20, a UH student from Pearl City. "It provides another way to motivate someone young like myself to become a pilot."

Reach William Cole at

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