Hawaii is recommended for more F-22 Raptors
By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: December 12, 2018
HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — The presence of F-22 Raptors — the Air Force’s premier fighter — is slated to grow on Oahu with the service proposing to permanently redistribute some of the aircraft from hurricane- damaged Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida.
The Air Force said it can increase the efficiency of operational F-22 squadrons at Joint Base Pearl Harbor- Hickam, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska and Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia by adding to the aircraft already there.
“This relocation not only ensures our ability to maintain the readiness and lethality of our airmen and this fifth-generation fleet, but also enhances our capabilities to support the National Defense Strategy in this critical region,” Gen. C.Q. Brown Jr., head of Pacific Air Forces in Hawaii, said in a statement.
“Fifth generation” refers to the most advanced aircraft, usually with stealth and state-of-the-art sensors.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson recommended Friday that Congress use supplemental funding to rebuild Tyndall for three squadrons of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters — a stealth aircraft focused more on air-to-ground missions.
The move from Tyndall would involve the 95th Fighter Squadron’s 21 F-22s, according to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio from Florida.
How many additional Raptors would be relocated to Hawaii — which has 20 of the stealth aircraft in one squadron — is not entirely clear. Virginia has two operational squadrons (as opposed to training or test units), and so does Alaska.
“We have recommended that the best path forward to increase readiness and use money wisely is to consolidate the operational F-22s formerly at Tyndall in Alaska, Hawaii and Virginia,” Wilson said in a release.
In any case, some additional Tyndall F-22s and personnel will soon arrive on Oahu. The aircraft were displaced by Hurricane Michael in October, which “devastated” the flight line and severely damaged hangars, according to the Air Force.
Most of the bases’s 55 Raptors flew to other locations ahead of the storm. About 17 of the aircraft were designated “non-mission capable” and were sheltered in place and later flown out, officials said.
“The F-22s that departed Tyndall flew initially to Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia,” said Leah Garton, chief of media operations for the Air Force’s Air Combat Command. “Some aircraft will be further dispersed to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii.”
The aircraft have not departed Virginia yet, but are scheduled to fly out and arrive in Alaska and Hawaii “before the holidays,” Garton said Tuesday in an email.
“We will not discuss specific numbers of aircraft due to operational security,” Garton said, reflecting a broader Defense Department clampdown on publicly released information.
The Air Force will conduct a formal study to determine the best location for Tyndall’s F-22 training squadron, which was displaced to Eglin Air Force Base in western Florida, Garton said.
The permanent relocation plan falls in line with a July U.S. Government Accountability Office report that found the Air Force has not maximized the use of its fleet of 186 aircraft — in large part because it organized F-22s into “small” units with 18 to 21 primary mission aircraft per squadron.
That decision created maintenance and flight training inefficiencies, GAO found. Officials in Hawaii stated that increasing the squadron by four additional aircraft would allow it to generate 32 percent more training sorties, the report said.
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