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Raptors back home after training with forces over England

By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 23, 2017

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors have returned to their home bases in the United States after wrapping up a set of exercises in Europe this month.

The six stealth fighter jets from the 27th Fighter Squadron stopped for air training at RAF Lakenhheath, England, on Oct. 8, 2017, as part of the European Deterrence Initiative, after a stint in the Middle East. The rest of the unit returned home after the six-month deployment, during which the Raptors flew missions against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“What I think the F-22 brings to the fight is we have very wide array of missions that we can do,” said Lt. Col. “Habu,” commander of the 94th Fighter Squadron, who for operational security gave only his call signal. “Although we’re not optimized to do some of the air-to-ground missions that the F-15 Strike Eagle might be, we’re still able to create the same effects that the (coalition) is looking for.”

Pilots from the 1st Fighter Wing’s 94th Squadron, who were not part of the combat deployment, traveled from Langley Air Force Base, Va., to operate the Raptors that stayed in England.

“The larger objectives are first and foremost to get some good training with the Royal Air Force. Additionally we’re trying to reassure some of our allies on the NATO side with our presence and training, and thirdly to deter aggression on the European continent,” the 94th Fighter Squadron’s commander said.

Since arriving in the European theater the Raptors have demonstrated their ability to forward-deploy in movements to both Poland and Germany.

F-22 pilot Capt. “Mach” said the history of the airspace had a great impact on him.

“The heritage for me is my great-grandfather was a B-17 ball turret gunner, and on my display I could cursor over and see only a 100 miles to the north where he was shot down in World War II,” the squadron’s project officer said. “That is going to stick with me for a very long time.”

The Raptors also flew in the Eastern Zephyr Exercise alongside local F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles of the 48th Fighter Wing and RAF Eurofighter Typhoons. The exercise involved several missions with as many as 40 aircraft flying over England.

“You see the same faces over and over,” Capt. “Mach” said. “Downrange you might recognize that guy’s voice on the radio, and you know you can trust that guy implicitly because you know them on a personal basis.”

More than 100 members of the 27th Fighter Squadron returned to Langley earlier this month, while airmen of the 94th Fighter Squadron sent to train in England with the F-22 Raptors flew back home last Thursday.

howard.william@stripes.com

Twitter @Howard_Stripes

A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor of the 1st Fighter Wing takes off from at RAF Lakenheath, England, Thursday, October 19, 2017. Six of the stealth fighter jets arrived earlier this month for training missions in the European theater.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

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