Hawaii Air National Guard has complete F-22 squadron
National Guard and Air Force share responsibilities for flying, maintaining Raptors
You may start seeing, and hearing them, much more often now that the final four fighters arrived on island last week.
Hawaii is now home to a total of 20 F-22 Raptors, completing the fighter squadron for the Hawaii Air National Guard.
To mark the arrival, our cameras were allowed a rare opportunity to see the world's most powerful fighter jets up close as they ready for training.
Wednesday morning's training mission was a routine exercise of aerial combat maneuvers taking place about 100 miles north of Oahu.
But when the military's F-22 Raptors are involved, it’s anything but routine.
Six F-22 pilots are suiting up for the mission.
Nervous? No. Superstitious?
"Absolutely," said Lt. Col. Rob "Brutus" Jackson, as he was suiting up for the mission. "We try to do it the same way every time so you don’t forget anything."
Eighteen Raptors are on the ramp at Hickam at any one time.
At $146 million dollars each, they're considered the fiercest stealth fighter jet in the world.
"Lots of power, incredible maneuverability and the displays give you unbelievable amounts of what we call situational awareness of what’s going on in the airspace," said Lt. Col. James "Saw" Sage.
For security reasons, the media was allowed only 20 feet up to the planes.
Standing on the reef runway to witness the Raptors taking off, 75,000 pounds of thrust is deafening -- and impressive.
"It’s incredible. It never gets old. Every time I take off, it's just such a privilege to be able to do what I love to do. Fly this aircraft, and also serve my country at the same time," said Sage. "How does it fly? It flies kind of like an F-15 on steroids."
As for the oxygen supply problem that delayed the arrival of the final planes and grounded the fleet for a time, the military is confident that's been solved.
"I’m 100 percent confident they've solved this problem and I fly them every day and myself, my family, we’re totally happy about flying this aircraft," said Sage.
The F-22 Raptors have never yet been used in combat operations. But finally having a full squadron of stealth fighters based in Hawaii, ready to mobilize in minutes, means enhanced security and stability at home and in the Pacific.
What also makes this squadron unique is the Hawaii Air National Guard and the Air Force share responsibility for flying and maintaining the Raptors at Hickam.
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