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PACAF unveils first F-22

The tail section of an F-22 Raptor being assigned to Pacific Air Forces is prepared for an unveiling ceremony Aug 3 at the Lockheed Plant in Marietta, Ga.  The aircraft, which is still under construction, will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, beginning next year.  (Courtesy photo/John Rossino)

The tail section of an F-22 Raptor being assigned to Pacific Air Forces is prepared for an unveiling ceremony Aug 3 at the Lockheed Plant in Marietta, Ga. The aircraft, which is still under construction, will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, beginning next year. (Courtesy photo/John Rossino)

Gen. Paul Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander, signs the tail section of an F-22 Raptor being assigned to PACAF during an unveiling ceremony Aug 3 at the Lockheed Plant in Marietta, Ga.  The aircraft, which is still under construction, will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, beginning next year.  (Courtesy photo/John Rossino)

Gen. Paul Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander, signs the tail section of an F-22 Raptor being assigned to PACAF during an unveiling ceremony Aug 3 at the Lockheed Plant in Marietta, Ga. The aircraft, which is still under construction, will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, beginning next year. (Courtesy photo/John Rossino)

Gen. Paul Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander, takes questions from the media following an unveiling ceremony Aug 3 at the Lockheed Plant in Marietta, Ga., for an F-22 Raptor being assigned to PACAF  The aircraft, which is still under construction, will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, beginning next year.  (Courtesy photo/John Rossino)

Gen. Paul Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander, takes questions from the media following an unveiling ceremony Aug 3 at the Lockheed Plant in Marietta, Ga., for an F-22 Raptor being assigned to PACAF The aircraft, which is still under construction, will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, beginning next year. (Courtesy photo/John Rossino)

MARIETTA, Ga. -- Pacific Air Forces' officials got a glimpse into the future of fighter capability during a tail flash ceremony here today in which PACAF's first F-22 Raptor was unveiled. 

The aircraft, which is still under construction, will be the first of 36 F-22s assigned to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, beginning next year. The base will become home to two active-duty F-22 squadrons - the 90th and 525th Fighter Squadrons, as well as a reserve associate squadron, the 302nd FS. It was also announced today that Lt. Col. Mike Showers will be Elmendorf's first F-22 squadron commander. He will command the 90th FS. 

With today's unveiling, PACAF officials unanimously agree the command is one step closer to ushering in a new era in fighter capability. 

"I'm excited about getting this incredible new air dominance capability into the Pacific. F-22As based in Alaska in the near-term and Hawaii in the mid-term demonstrates the tremendous American commitment to the region by assuring security and stability for our nation, as well as for our friends and allies," said PACAF commander General Paul V. Hester. In the future, the aircraft will also be assigned to Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. The 199th Fighter Squadron of the Hawaii Air National Guard will fly the F-22 and the 531st Fighter Squadron will be an Active associate squadron to them. 

The Air Force's newly operational Raptors, stationed at Langley AFB, Va., are already leaving a powerful impression in the fighter community. In June, the F-22 was put to the test during Northern Edge 2006, a two-week joint service exercise held in Alaska. The F-22's capabilities were highlighted during several air-to-air engagements that included facing an opposing force at a 4-to-1 disadvantage. 

According to Lt. Col. Dane West, 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, the tremendous success of the Raptor was a result of team effort. 

"In my 24 years, I've not seen a more coherent team of operators, maintenance contractors and support personnel," Lt. Col. West said. "The success to date didn't happen because of 'a' supply line or 'a' maintenance shift or 'an' operator. It happened because of a professional team focused on the mission-set to prove the strengths and weaknesses of this deployed airframe." 

Maintenance for the Raptor also set benchmarks with mission completion by having an abort rate of less than 6.4 percent of all missions flown. 

"Throughout the exercise we were able to see just how effective this jet can be integrating with multiple joint assets for a number of different missions," explained Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver, 27th Fighter Squadron commander, Langley AFB, Va., and an F-22 pilot. 

Perhaps even more impressive is how the F-22 is able to help other aircraft increase their performance. During Northern Edge, the Raptor was paired with joint-service jets such as F/A-18 Hornets, F-15C/E Eagles, E/A-6B Prowlers and E-2C Hawkeyes.
"The Raptor's success here (Northern Edge) is something that should be shared among all the services, because it means our entire force has capabilities that it didn't have just a short time ago," Col. Tolliver said. 

During a meeting with the Senate Armed Services Sub Committee, Secretary of the Air Force, Michael W. Wynne, gave an update to the Raptor's ability. 

"The F-22A has performed excellently during exercises both in and out of the continental United States," the SECAF said, "dominating the current generation fighters, yet integrating seamlessly with ground based operations." 

While today's unveiling was a historical event, Gen. Hester agrees that the arrival of the F-22 in PACAF is beneficial not just for the command but for the entire Air Force. 

"I'm looking forward to leveraging all three components of our Total Force: Active Duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserves to squeeze every ounce of capability out of these great fighters. Our Total Force is critical in today's challenging environments...and I couldn't be more pleased that all three elements are going to be fully engaged in the Raptor business," he said.