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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Air Force’s oldest fighter squadron, “The Fightin’ Eagles” of the 27th Fighter Squadron out of Langley Air Force Base, Va., has been tapped to become the first operational unit to adopt F/A-22 Raptor jets. The Raptors will start arriving at the squadron late next year, Air Force officials said.

Each squadron in the 1st Fighter Wing is scheduled to receive 24 fighters. The entire transition is supposed to be complete by the end of 2007, said Col Frank Gorenc, commander of the 1st Fighter Wing, in a news release.

The squadron will “break in” the F/A-22, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s $258 million, next-generation stealth fighter replacement for the F-15C air-to-air fighter.

The Air Force wants to purchase 381 Raptors, but escalating program costs and a production budget capped at $37 billion by Congress have shaved that number to 276.

The first Raptor to be used for training pilots arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., in late September. All F/A-22 pilots will eventually go through Tyndall to learn to fly the aircraft, which is the U.S. military’s most technologically advanced fighter jet.

The F/A-22 is supposed to be ready for use in combat by December 2005.

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