Feature | Sept. 7, 2006

'Ready Elmendorf:' U.S. needs F-22 capability in Pacific, beyond

By Capt. Elizabeth Kreft 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Location, location, location. We're not talking real estate, we're talking strategic advantage. 

Though jets like the Raptor can get just about anywhere in the world with tanker support, housing different F-22 squadrons at specific points around the globe ensures a timely response for any conflict. 

"The bad news is when you are talking about going long distances, even the fastest jets are limited to how fast the tankers are moving," said Lt. Col. Michael Shower, 90th Detachment commander. "The good news is that from Elmendorf, F-22s can be almost anywhere in the world within 12 hours due to its 'Top of the World' location." 

The strategic position will also spur new program requirements and expectations for day-to-day operations in the Pacific. 

"The requirements and operations will be slightly different in Alaska," Colonel Shower said. "It's going to be a challenging responsibility for PACAF to bring a new weapons system to a different operational theater, but that is what 'Ready Elmendorf' is all about." 

"Ready Elmendorf" is the transition plan designed to bring F-22A Raptor operations to Alaska, by way of Langley. By all reports, Air Force leaders expect to see the new fighter squadron up and running by January 2008. 

"The Det. will open its doors October 1st," Colonel Shower said "The pilots, maintainers and support staff will fold into Langley operations as if they are a part of the 1st Fighter Wing, then by Summer of 2007 we'll look to start moving jets permanently up to Elmendorf." 

During the recent tail flash unveiling ceremony for the first Alaskan F-22, General Paul Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander, explained why bringing the Raptor to Elmendorf means stability for that part of the globe. 

"F-22s based in Alaska in the near-term and Hawaii in the mid-term demonstrates the tremendous American commitment to the region by assuring security and stability for our nation, as well as for our friends and allies," he said. 

Colonel Shower echoed Gen. Hester as he described his expectations for the new squadron. 

"We've worked hard to bring the Raptor online here at Langley, and we don't need to spend our time recreating good procedures and plans that are already in place," he said. "But we will have to look at how to change our operations to best support the PACAF mission." 

Threats specific to the Pacific region include jets like the Sukhoi Su-35 and the MiG 29, but Colonel Shower feels confident the F-22 can overcome these advanced foreign fighters. 

"Aircraft such as the vectored thrust Su-35 do have similar maneuverability," he said. "But that's all they have. They don't have the stealth, supercruise or integrated avionics."
With its integrated sensors, information fusion and data link capabilities, the Raptor will increase the effectiveness of any jet its coupled with, in the Pacific and beyond. 

"It takes all that technology, sucks in all that data from the battlefield, and passes that data to other legacy systems that do not have the stealth characteristics, and do not have supercruise characteristics," General Hester said. 

"It positions them better, alerts them to danger better, targets them against targets faster, and allows them to be more successful on the battlefield," he said. "And as it does those things for legacy systems inside the Air Force, it does those same things for legacy systems in other parts of our services, in our Harriers, in our F-18s and in the airplanes other services fly." 

Raptor operations will eventually make their way to Holloman AFB, N.M., and to Hickam AFB, Hawaii. Pacific based F-22s will bring advanced capabilities to our combatant commanders whenever and wherever the need arises. 

"Thanks to the "Ready Elmendorf" efforts from the 1st Fighter Wing the Air Force is well on its way to achieving that milestone," Colonel Shower said. "Each new operational F-22 squadron and base will have program roots that link back to the 1st Fighter Wing, and that is something every Airmen at Langley can be proud of."