U.S. AIR FORCE BY TSGT. BEN BLOKER
On May 12, the first operational F/A-22 Raptor flew over Fort Monroe in Virginia before being delivered to its permanent home at Langley Air Force Base, Va. It was the first of 26 Raptors to be delivered to the 27th Fighter Squadron. The Hawaii Air National Guard is exploring the possibility of converting its aircraft to the Raptor stealth fighter.
Hawaii Air Guard seeks Raptor jets
A public meeting will be held Nov. 9 to outline the plans
First, the Hawaii Air National Guard flew the F-86 Saber jet in 1954, then later the F-102 Delta, F-4 Phantom and the F-15 Eagle.
Now, the National Guard wants to fly the Air Force's newest and most expensive jet fighter -- the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, 18 of which are planned to be based at Hickam Air Force Base.
Type: Single-seat jet fighter
Length: 62 feet
Wingspan: 44 feet
Cost: $133 million
Power plant: Two Pratt & Whitney turbofans
Speed: Mach 1.5
Ceiling: Above 50,000 feet
Range: 1,995 miles
Source: U.S. Air Force
"This is just another aircraft conversion," said Maj. Chuck Anthony, Hawaii National Guard spokesman.
At 7 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Radford High School cafeteria, the Hawaii Air National Guard will try to tell the public about the plane proposal.
"This is an opportunity to find out more information about the aircraft and let us know about their concerns," Anthony said.
The hearing is part of the environmental study the Hawaii Guard is required to hold as it identifies the areas where the F-22 will be housed and the air space where the fighters will train.
Pacific Air Forces has already said that it would like the single-seat fighter, which flies at 1.5 times the speed of sound and costs more than $133 million each, to be operational at Hickam by 2011.
Anthony said the Hawaii Air Guard views the F-22 as "one more step" in the history of the flying unit.
Anthony doesn't see any major changes to the area that the 199th Squadron now occupies on the makai side of Hickam.
However, the Hawaii Guard already has plans for a new $30 million alert pad to replace the one built in 1958.
The planes will be flown by air crews belonging to the Hawaii Air National Guard's 199th Squadron and the active Air Force's 531st Squadron.
The conversion to an F-22 squadron will give Hickam three joint tactical efforts by the Air Force and Hawaii Air Guard.
The Hawaii Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron last summer began its first affiliation with an active-duty crew when it began operations with the active Air Force's 535th Airlift Squadron. The two units now crew eight C-17 Globemaster cargo jets throughout the Pacific and even into Iraq and Afghanistan.
By 2010, the Hawaii Air National Guard's 203rd Air Refueling Squadron will receive four active-duty KC-135 tankers from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and become affiliated with an active-duty refueling squadron. The unit now has nine jet tankers.
"This is definitely how the future is going to be," Anthony said.
The Air Force has said it has planned for F-22 squadrons to be assigned to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
The Air Force said 188 F-22A Raptors will be built through 2012.