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Pilot begins training while Raptors awaited


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Hawaii Air National Guard has sent the first of its 22 pilots to be trained at a Florida base to fly the highly sophisticated, single-seat F-22 Raptor jet fighter.

Gen. Gary North, the Pacific Air Forces four-star commander, told reporters yesterday that Hickam Air Force base will receive two of its 20 $137 million Raptors from Langley Air Force Base by early summer.

He said the Hawaii Air National Guard's Lt. Col. Christopher “;Frenchy”; Faurot, who has been flying with the Guard since 1991, is now at flight school at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Fla.

Faurot is the Hawaii Air Guard F-22 integration project officer and was one of four fighter pilots who scrambled to protect island skies following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

In February last year, Faurot was forced to eject from his F-15 jet fighter when both of the rudders failed during a training mission 60 miles south of Oahu. The $43.7 million plane sank in 2,500 feet of water.

The Raptors will be flown by a hybrid squadron made up of 22 pilots from the Hawaii Air Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron and 10 from the active Air Force's 531st Fighter Squadron.

North said that $145 million will be spent to upgrade Hickam's Air National Guard facilities and should be operational by the end of 2013.

The 62-foot Raptor, which will replace the F-15 Eagles that the Hawaii Air Guard has flown since 1987, can fly at 1.5 times the speed of sound and 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. Faurot said the Raptor's speed and stealth capabilities give his pilots “;the first look, first shot, first kill”; advantage.

North said that shortly after assuming command of 45,000 airmen and civilians on Aug. 19, he made a point to visit his bases in Guam, Japan, South Korea and Alaska.

“;My goal was to get out as quickly as I could to see the wing commanders and other commanders,”; said North, pointing out that his command covers an area extending from the West Coast to the Indian Ocean and from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

North said the Air Force has maintained “;a continued presence on Guam”; because it is “;a great facility for training”; and to execute long-range training missions to Australia and South Korea. Since 2000 the Air Force has steadily increased the number jet fighters and bombers and stockpiles of munitions and jet fuel on Guam, 3,800 miles west of Hawaii.

Before coming to Hickam, North, a 33-year veteran, led the air campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan for 3 1/2 years as commander of the 9th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Central Command at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. From July 2004 to January 2006, North, a command jet fighter pilot with 4,500 flight hours and 83 combat missions, was director of operations at U.S. Pacific Command.

U.S. Pacific Air Forces

It is one of two Air Force Major Commands out of the continental U.S.; the other is in Europe.
» Personnel: 45,000 civilian and military
» Area of responsibility: 100 million square miles
» Facilities: Nine in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, Guam and South Korea
» Aircraft: 300
» Major units: 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska; 8th Fighter Wing in Kunsan, South Korea; 15th Airlift Wing at Hickam Air Force Base; 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa; 51st Fighter Wing in Osan, South Korea; 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska; 35th Fighter Wing in Misawa, Japan; 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base, Japan; and 36th Wing at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam
Source: U.S. Air Force