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Raptors find new nest

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - F-22s from the 1st Fighter Wing stationed at Langley AFB, Va. fly to Elmendorf AFB Alaska on 23 May 2006.  The 7.5 hour transit was the longest continuous deployment of F-22s as 12 Raptors will participate in Exercise Northern Edge which is slated in June as a joint exercise under the control of Pacific Command. (Photo by Paul Weatherman)

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - F-22s from the 1st Fighter Wing stationed at Langley AFB, Va. fly to Elmendorf AFB Alaska on 23 May 2006. The 7.5 hour transit was the longest continuous deployment of F-22s as 12 Raptors will participate in Exercise Northern Edge which is slated in June as a joint exercise under the control of Pacific Command. (Photo by Paul Weatherman)

An F-22 Raptor lands at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., are supporting Exercise Northern Edge 2006. The Air Force selected Elmendorf as the home for the next operational F-22 squadron. The base will receive 36 Raptors, with the first jet expected in fall 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown)

An F-22 Raptor lands at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., are supporting Exercise Northern Edge 2006. The Air Force selected Elmendorf as the home for the next operational F-22 squadron. The base will receive 36 Raptors, with the first jet expected in fall 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Keith Brown)

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - F-22s from the 1st Fighter Wing stationed at Langley AFB, Va. fly to Elmendorf AFB Alaska on 23 May 2006.  The 7.5 hour transit was the longest continuous deployment of F-22s as 12 Raptors will participate in Exercise Northern Edge which is slated in June as a joint exercise under the control of Pacific Command. (Photo by Paul Weatherman)

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska - F-22s from the 1st Fighter Wing stationed at Langley AFB, Va. fly to Elmendorf AFB Alaska on 23 May 2006. The 7.5 hour transit was the longest continuous deployment of F-22s as 12 Raptors will participate in Exercise Northern Edge which is slated in June as a joint exercise under the control of Pacific Command. (Photo by Paul Weatherman)

An F-22 Raptor taxis after landing at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., are supporting Exercise Northern Edge 2006. The Air Force has selected Elmendorf as the home for the next operational F-22 squadron. The base will receive 36 Raptors, with the first jet expected in fall 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dave Donovan)

An F-22 Raptor taxis after landing at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 23, 2006. Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., are supporting Exercise Northern Edge 2006. The Air Force has selected Elmendorf as the home for the next operational F-22 squadron. The base will receive 36 Raptors, with the first jet expected in fall 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dave Donovan)

Five Air Force F-22 Raptors taxi after arrival at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Tuesday May 23, 2006. Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., are supporting Exercise Northern Edge 2006. The Air Force has selected Elmendorf as the home for the next operational F-22 squadron. The base will receive 36 Raptors, with the first jet expected in fall 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dave Donovan)

Five Air Force F-22 Raptors taxi after arrival at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, on Tuesday May 23, 2006. Raptors from the 27th Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB, Va., are supporting Exercise Northern Edge 2006. The Air Force has selected Elmendorf as the home for the next operational F-22 squadron. The base will receive 36 Raptors, with the first jet expected in fall 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Dave Donovan)

ELMENDORF AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- After flying over more than 3,200 miles of land, ocean, mountains and glaciers, six F-22A Raptors arrived here Tuesday from Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Though it isn’t the first time the Raptors have flown over snow-capped mountains, it is the first time they have flown outside of the continental United States, and the first time they have been to Alaska.

“It feels great to be here,” said Lt. Col. Wade Tolliver, 27th Fighter Squadron commander. “This is the longest continuous trip we’ve flown in this bird, so that gives us a great start to this entire visit.”

The 27th FS, the first operational Raptor Squadron, brought an additional six jets into town Wednesday and Thursday, making it an even dozen F-22s that will nest at Elmendorf AFB for the next six weeks.

“The 3rd Wing hospitality has been wonderful so far, and we look forward to the weeks ahead,” said Colonel Tolliver.

The 12 Raptors, 18 pilots, 174 maintainers - as well as several other Raptor support personnel - will participate in Northern Edge, Alaskan Command’s joint exercise taking place June 5-16.

NE 2006 is the other first for the Raptors this trip: it is the very first continuous exercise that will include the F-22. During the exercise more than 5,000 U.S. active duty and reserve component military members will work together in a joint environment to enhance their ability to rapidly respond to any regional contingency.

“We are excited to bring the Raptor into the mix here – it extremely important to test the interoperability between emerging weapons systems and the current operational tools on the Air Force and joint level,” said Col. Tolliver.

The exercise will provide unique opportunities to hone current and test future applications of joint combat operations and weapons capabilities said Colonel Tolliver.

“I guarantee everyone, whether they’re from Virginia, Alaska or beyond, will learn quite a bit from this exercise.”

Part of the overall Raptor interest here stems from the knowledge that this base will be the next operational location to house F-22s. Senior leaders have already drawn up plans to bring Alaska Raptors and maintainers to Langley for several months of training prior to their arrival at Elmendorf.

These next few weeks of cooperation and education will prove to be valuable for both the 3rd Wing and 1st Fighter Wing in coming months.

“We know that we will be working closely together in the near future, so this is an excellent opportunity to get to know some of the people and processes that we will encounter as we bring F-22s to Alaska,” said Col. Roberts, 3rd Wing Operations Group commander.
“Building solid working relationships before the start of this Raptor process will make everything about this transition easier for our Airmen,” he said.

After participating in Northern Edge, the 27th FS will remain here until the end of June. Col. Tolliver said his squadron’s goal is to get as much training is as possible.

“This will be another opportunity for our deployment team to test several layers of our supply chain and out-of-town operations,” said Colonel Tolliver. “Bringing the F-22 here, away from our support structure at Langley, gives us the ability to prepare for future deployments that will take us even farther across the globe.” (Courtesy Pacific Air Forces)