Raptors return to the Pacific

Staff Sgt. Gegory Slavik marshals in an F-22 Raptor Jan. 12. The aircraft is one of 12 deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va., as part of an air expeditionary force rotation. Sergeant Slavik is a dedicated crew chief with the 27th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hummel)

1/12/2009 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan (AFNS) -- Six F-22 Raptors arrived at Kadena Air Base, Jan. 10, as part of a three-month deployment in support of U.S. Pacific Command's security obligations in the Western Pacific. The planes arrived after a 10-hour flight from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

The F-22s, part of the 27th Fighter Squadron, are deployed from Langley AFB, Va. This is the second deployment of Langley-based Raptors to Kadena; the first occurred in February 2007. About 250 maintenance and combat support personnel arrived here earlier in the week in preparation for the arrival of the Raptors. Bringing the F-22 back to the Far East is both a reflection of the U.S.'s commitment to the region as well as an opportunity to demonstrate the plane's expeditionary capability.

"First and foremost, it's only our 2nd deployment overseas, so it's a chance to exercise in that capacity to meet the U.S. Air Force's worldwide obligations," said Lt. Col. David Nardi, a pilot with the 27th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. "We're extremely excited to be here supporting the U.S.-Japan security alliance, and we look forward to strengthening that relationship during this deployment.

Colonel Nardi is one of 59 Air National Guard members on this deployment who fly and support the F-22 at Langley AFB, making this a unique Total Force effort. "This is a great opportunity for us to train with other U.S. units in the region and help carry out their mission of maintaining security in the Pacific," said Colonel Nardi.

An F-22 Raptor lands at Kadena Air Base, Japan, Jan. 10. The aircraft is one of 12 deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va., as part of an air expeditionary force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Chad Warren)

For the Kadena AB, the Raptor deployment allows it a unique opportunity to integrate its operations with the Air Force's newest air superiority fighter and to exercise one of its core missions -- to receive and beddown additional forces.

"The 18th Wing is extremely proud to host the 27th Fighter Squadron and the F-22 Raptor at Kadena Air Base," said Col. Lenny Richoux, 18th Wing vice commander. "This deployment demonstrates the mutual importance of both the Raptor's unmatched combat power and Kadena Air Base as a forward power projection platform."

Colonel Richoux and Col. Ronald Banks, 18th Operations Group commander, were on hand to greet the first six Raptor pilots as they arrived at Kadena. "This deployment of F-22s to Kadena is a key force projection event and signifies the importance the U.S. gives to our alliance with Japan," said Colonel Banks. "Additionally, the presence of the Raptor is a major flexible deterrent option that 13th Air Force has to show "would-be" adversaries that the U.S. is committed to ensuring peace and stability in this region."

After landing at Kadena Air Base, Japan, an F-22 Raptor taxis down the runway Jan. 11. The aircraft is one of 12 deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va., as part of an air expeditionary force rotation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Amanda Grabiec)

The F-22 is the Air Force's most advanced air superiority fighter. Its combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capability.

"The airplane truly is a game changer," said Colonel Nardi. "It brings capabilities to the fight that no other airplane has, and it's exciting to have a chance to bring this capability to the Pacific theater."

As part of continuing force posture adjustments to address worldwide requirements, the United States regularly deploys additional forces throughout the Western Pacific. In addition to the Kadena deployment, 12 Elmendorf AFB, Alaska-based Raptors will deploy to Andersen AFB, Guam. (Maj. John S. Hutcheson @AF.MIL)

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