Aviation >> Aviation Waffle >> First F/A-22 Raptor Arrives at Langley

Message started by Roger Whitcomb on Jan 9th, 2005 at 7:52pm

Title: First F/A-22 Raptor Arrives at Langley
Post by Roger Whitcomb on Jan 9th, 2005 at 7:52pm
Maintenance trainer though, not for an active squadron: another due in two weeks or so.

I'm not 100% sure but I think the F/A-22A that they refer to in the text is possibly 91-4005/ED that served with 411th FLTS:

Raptor Glides Home

Escorted by two F-15 Eagles, a sleek and sexy F/A-22 Raptor glided through Hampton Roads' air space and over Langley Air Force Base on Friday. The Raptor can fly faster, higher and with better maneuverability than the Eagle, but for the half-hour or so that it soared in various formations with the Eagles over Langley's flight line, it kept the same pace.

Both planes, one that's given the U.S. military air dominance for the past few decades, and one that is intended to carry the service into the next generation of combat, eventually landed, finally bringing the first Raptor to Langley.

As the planes taxied to their evening parking spots,dozens of airmen and a couple of children brought on base for the mid-afternoon show looked on in awe.

"This truly is history we are making here today," said Col. Tom Tinsley, the operations group commander in charge of everything that flies at Langley. "We are having the first Raptor arrive at the first operational base of the Raptor."

The Raptor is the newest fighter jet in the Air Force's arsenal.

The plane that arrived Friday, the fifth Raptor built, will be used to train maintenance crews. Before arriving at Langley it was used for a majority of the missile testing of the new jet. Friday was the last time it will ever fly, Tinsley said. In two weeks or so, another Raptor will arrive. That plane will be the first one used in flight by local pilots, Tinsley said.

In the coming year, more and more Raptors will begin to arrive at Langley. The base is scheduled to have its first operational squadron ready to deploy by the end of this year. But it wasn't the pilots who were the most excited.It was the men and women behind the scenes working the wrenches and loading the weapons.

"To me, this is a proud moment," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Coker seconds after the Raptor landed. He was hooking up the plane to its latest diagnostic system to make sure everything was in working order after the flight from Edwards Air Force Base in California. "To see something brand new, and to help bring it to Langley, is really something to be proud of."

Coker is one of the mechanics - he specializes in loading weapons onto the Raptors - who will be training others at Langley on the Raptor that arrived Friday. He spent several years training on the plane himself. Friday was the first time he'd gotten to work with it in months.

"This jet does a lot of thinking for itself," Coker said. "There is far less for us to do."

In fact, it takes fewer people and fewer hours to maintain the Raptor than it does the Eagle. It's estimated that every time an Eagle flies, mechanics have to work an average of 22 hours to get it ready to fly again. It takes only 12 hours to get the Raptor back in the air.

"It's great that we have a jet to just train on," said Tech Sgt. Ali Gibson, another mechanic. "We can take it apart, put it back together and then take it apart again. We don't have to worry about getting it ready to fly the next day. Also, it makes it better for our flying planes because we won't have to keep them down for maintenance training."

Despite all the hype, the Raptor has faced criticism. Throughout its two-decade life, critics have claimed the jet is nothing more than a Cold War relic originally thought up to fight Soviet MiG jets. Development costs of the Raptor soared by 127 percent to $28 billion and avionics problems continually delayed testing and development. The entire program is now estimated to cost $72 billion - not including the savings Air Force officials expect to see over the long haul from needing fewer tools, people and hours to maintain the jet. The price tag for one plane is $257 million - a number that could go down when full-scale production begins. The Air Force now plans to buy 277 Raptors instead of the 381 it originally wanted. That number may also decrease. Earlier this month defense analysts said the service should only build 150 planes because of White House pressure to cut defense spending. The Raptor's troubled history was the last thing on anyone's mind Friday.

"We've been preparing the base for years in anticipation of this day," said Col. Frank Gorenc, the 1st Fighter Wing commander and pilot of one of the Eagles that escorted the Raptor in Friday.

In between excited glances at the Raptor finally sitting on his turf, Gorenc said, "This is just the beginning."

Source: (8th January, 2005)

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