Earlier this month, United States Air Force F-22 Raptors made the flight from Hawaii to Japan. The aircraft, from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, landed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni on March 12.
The operation also included a mixture of both active-duty and Air National Guard Airmen from the 199th Fighter Squadron and the 19th Fighter squadron. Their deployment to Japan was meant to signal the continuing effort to support the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command's dynamic force employment concept, which supports the National Defense Strategy effort to conduct training with allies while maintaining global peace and security.
"This operation demonstrates our commitment to ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific through the flexibility of our forces," said Maj. Gen. Lansing Pilch, Pacific Air Forces Air and Cyberspace Operations (PACAF) director, "We're focused on being ready for a high-end fight under any conditions. This operation gives our Airmen an opportunity to train with the Marines and their fifth-generation aircraft, as well as potential opportunities to integrate and fly with allies in the region."
The Air Force said that the PACAF fighter operations will provide the command opportunities to develop a lethal, agile and resilient force posture in the Indo-Pacific region by maintaining capabilities for major combat while providing options for proactive and scalable employment of the joint force.
"The presence of the U.S. Air Force's F-22s here at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni provides a gainful opportunity for our F-35B pilots to practice joint integration between these two state-of-the-art aircraft," added Lt. Col. Richard Behrmann, Marine Aircraft Group 12 Operations Officer. "Regular training and integration with joint service, partner and allied forces is one of the many ways that we maintain a high level of readiness and ensure that we can provide valuable contributions to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region."
The recently deployed F-22 had recently trained in the Aloha State with an "aggressor" squadron to test the capabilities during a hypothetical "high-end fight" with a near-peer adversary such as China. "Aggressors" are meant to provide world-class mimicry of adversarial practices, and this includes their aircraft paint scheme and heraldry. Aggressor personnel is typically branded with insignia that resembles that of Cold War opponents to represent a past threat, along with foreign paint designs that are easily identified.
"We're helping the F-22s by replicating adversary capabilities so that they are trained and ready for any fight the Air Force wants to take them to," explained Capt. Daniel Simpson, an 18th Aggressor Squadron pilot.
While the exact number of Raptors hasn't been confirmed, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that at least four and likely six of the aircraft were sent from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
In addition to training with aggressor aircraft and deployments to Japan, some other Hawaiian-based F-22 Raptors were used in a ground refueling exercise. Total Force Initiative (TFI) Airmen at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from the active-duty 15th Maintenance Group (MXG) and Hawaii Air National Guard 154th MXG successfully transferred fuel this month from a C-17 Globemaster III to an F-22 Raptor and provided proof-of-concept evidence that the larger air-transport aircraft could refuel the smaller fighter jet.
During the exercise, a large hose was attached to the "mother" C-17, which allowed fuel to be passed through an external valve system. For safety purposes, a longer refueling hose extended from the valve system to a "thirsty" F-22 Raptor. Teams of Airmen monitored the entire refueling process.
"The purpose of doing this is to enable refueling wherever we have (fighter) aircraft that need fuel from (tanker aircraft) that have extra fuel," said Master Sgt. Brian Pittman, 15th MXG C-17 production superintendent. "It enables fighters to take off faster from remote locations and it leaves a smaller footprint while still enabling us to get our mission done."
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.