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F-22 Raptor Ready For Its Combat Role

F-22 Raptors (pictured) will provide strike packages of aircraft better spherical situational awareness when they pull their first Air Expeditionary Force duty in 2007. The 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va., will fly the first Raptors in combat. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Austin Knox)
by Louis A. Arana-Barradas
San Antonio TX (AFNS) Oct 10, 2006
While the 27th Fighter Squadron is still figuring out the processes needed to deploy its F-22 Raptors to war, it is ready to go now. Squadron director of operations Lt. Col. Kevin Fesler said the Langley Air Force Base, Va., unit is still normalizing its operations. But he said if the call comes, the unit would deploy.

"We train every day as if the phone is going to ring and we're going to be told to go and meet our wartime commitment," the colonel said. "So we could go right now."

Colonel Fesler, once an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot, has 300 flying hours in the Raptor. His job is to make sure his pilots are ready to go to war. Each day the unit trains with the stealth fighter, the aircrews and maintainers get better at their tasks, he said. They learn new lessons about the F-22. And that helps drive the Airmen to standardize operations.

"We want to put more pressure on ourselves because being the first operational squadron in the F-22 comes with a responsibility. And that responsibility is to flesh out the process and to figure out where we want this airplane to go," the colonel from Bloomfield, Ill., said.

The Air Force wants the Raptor to go to war. In a speech to U.S. Military Academy cadets in mid September, Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne said the ground war days are over. Tomorrow's military -- which will be even more interdependent -- will go to war with better weapons. Those include the better awareness, detection and instant communications needed to deliver concentrated and precision strikes.

"Most importantly, spherical situation awareness delivers to the net the tools of precision fire, including fires measured to avoid innocent casualties, and to get instant feedback to all that are on the command net," Secretary Wynne said. "The kill cycle can thus be cut to minutes and possibly seconds, from the detect to the assessment."

Colonel Fesler said the F-22 is perfect for the kind of warfare that requires spherical situation awareness. One of the assets the Raptor brings to any mission is that it complements other missions.

"It adds, to use a big word, a synergistic effect to the entire battlespace," said the colonel, who has 3,200 flying hours -- 850 in combat. "The onboard capabilities of the F-22 and the (situational awareness) that you have inside the airplane adds to the other missions."

That means the Raptor can help with air-to-air, offensive counter air or defensive counter air or air-to-ground strikes -- and any other kind of air mission. Ultimately, that will make the warfighting process more survivable for everyone involved, the colonel said.

"And the synergistic effects of the battlespace situational awareness that the Raptor has, and the way we impart that to everyone in that battlespace -- it's just going to make a more lethal force," he said. "We want to get in and get out, and we want everyone to survive."

The Raptor is lethal enough on its own. It has a combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics. The jet also has a combination of state-of-the-art sensors that give it a first-strike capability. And its cockpit design improves the pilot's situational awareness.

Adding these capacities -- the jet's eyes and ears and other capabilities -- will make a strike package of aircraft that includes the F-22 more effective. On just about every mission he has flown in the stealth jet, the Raptor has complimented the mission, the colonel said.

"It is truly a joint force multiplier," Colonel Fesler said.

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Tucson AZ (SPX) Oct 10, 2006
The Raytheon Missile Systems and BAE Systems Bofors' Excalibur team delivered the first production Excalibur global positioning system-guided 155 mm artillery rounds to the U.S. Army Sept. 19, paving the way for the next series of testing required to field the weapon in theater early next year. Final assembly of the projectiles occurred at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in McAlester, Okla.

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