Air Guard gets new wings


POSTED: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

For the next few days, Staff Sgt. Clarence Rivera, a Hawaii Air National Guard technician, will get his first close look at the Air Force's newest and most expensive jet fighter: the $140 million F-22 Raptor.

Since 1998, Rivera, 28, has been an avionics technician servicing the radar, communication, navigation and weapons systems belonging to the 17 F-15 Eagle jet fighters assigned to Hawaii Air Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron.




An advanced fighting machine


        » The F-22 Raptor is the Air Force's newest and most advanced fighter, combining stealth, maneuverability, super-cruise capability and superior avionics, giving the U.S. unmatched air dominance.

» The 62-foot Raptor flies at 1.5 times the speed of sound, can lock onto an enemy fighter 40 miles away and take it out with a missile before the other aircraft's pilot realizes he has been targeted.


Source: Air Force Capt. Blaine Jones


Beginning in June 2010, his job will be working on the first two F-22 replacements that will arrive at Hickam Air Force Base.

By 2011 the squadron will have 20 of the single-seat F-22 Raptors, which it will share with pilots from the Air Force's 531st Fighter Squadron. It will be the only F-22 Raptor squadron in the Air Force led by the Air National Guard.

This week, Hawaii Air Guard crew chiefs and mechanics got to see one of the 20 F-22s they will receive. The 6-year-old Raptor from the 525th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska made a brief stop at Hickam on its way home from Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

Brig. Gen. Peter “;Skipper”; Pawling said that by September 2010 the Hawaii Air Guard will have shed all of its F-15s, first acquired in 1987.

Pawling noted that the Hawaii Guard's 203rd Air Refueling Squadron also will receive four additional KC-135 jet tankers, bringing its fleet to 12.

He leaves this summer after commanding the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing for the past six years to become the mobilization assistant to the commander of Pacific forces.

Six of the pilots of the new composite active Air Force-Hawaii Air National Guard squadron will be in the active Air Force. The other 27 F-22 pilots will be from the Hawaii Air National Guard.

“;We're doing good,”; said Pawling, who has flown F-102 Delta Dagger, F-4 Phantom and F-15 Eagle fighters during his Hawaii Air Guard career. “;We're right on track.”;

The recent budget proposal — which still needs congressional approval — by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to end the F-22 jet fighter production by building only 187 Raptors will not affect the transformation of the Hawaii Air Guard, Pawling added.

But his concern is continued funding of a $145 million construction project designed to build and upgrade 20 facilities at Hickam to accommodate the new planes, air crews and maintenance personnel. At least four new buildings will be built. Due for relocation is the pad where fighters remain on alert for emergencies.

Rivera said the radar-evading jet fighter with all its advanced avionics is easier to maintain because its diagnostics program is loaded into a laptop computer, which just plugs into the jet fighter's electronics system.