JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 Raptor aircrews and F-16 Fighting Falcon "Aggressors" from Alaska trained over the Pacific Ocean in exercise Pacific Raptor.
The exercise was held to generate dissimilar aircraft combat training with the Alaska-based aircraft from the Eielson Air Force Base, exposing the Hawaiian F-22 Raptors to new combat strategies likely to be faced in the event of an air-to-air battle.
"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," said Capt. Daniel Simpson, 18th Aggressor Squadron pilot.
In the fighter community, the 'Aggressors' are known to provide world-class mimicry of adversarial practices, so much that it permeates throughout their aircraft paint scheme and heraldry. Aggressor personnel are branded with insignia that resembles that of Cold War opponents to represent a past threat, along with foreign paint designs that are easily identified.
A typical training day entailed the launching of KC-135 Stratotankers from the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron, followed by back-to-back takeoffs with the Hawaiian Raptors and Aggressors, which received in-air refueling between each combat scenario. Each round of refueling was planned so pilots could return to the battlespace and complete as much training as possible within each sortie, in addition to simulating tanker support invariably needed in real-world conflicts.
Before, during and after each training mission, air battle managers and command and control personnel from the Hawaii ANG's 169th Air Defense Squadron monitor the air space and relay information between aviators and command staff. The squadron utilizes powerful radar and surveillance technologies on a 24/7 basis, keeping a watch on the skies throughout and around the Hawaiian Islands.
Personnel from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam's Fleet Logistics Center helped enable fighter operations throughout the exercise. Logistics personnel provided ground fuel to aircraft to develop joint interoperability and streamline the transfer of resources between service branches whenever needed.
"One of the most important aspects to making this exercise successful is teamwork," said a Hawaii ANG Raptor pilot, distinguished as a Pacific Raptor superior performer. "To that end, the Hawaiian Raptors get to integrate with the Air National Guard and active duty as a TFI (Total Force Integration) unit, working side-by-side on a routine basis.
In addition to that, it takes everyone else on this base from maintenance to the support personnel to the 203rd [Air Refueling Squadron's flying tanker support) to the controllers at the 169th, and the NAVSUP from the Pearl Harbor Fleet Logistics Center by providing awesome fuel support."
Wartime readiness requirements were enhanced throughout the exercise, such as qualifying 14 aircrew members for mandatory upgrade certifications and completing more than 650 inflight hours. The training also presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for ground support Airmen who make the mission possible.
Seven locally based Airmen were awarded incentive flights in the back seat of an F-16 to recognize their outstanding performance and expose them to the fighter operations they support.
"I think it's a great opportunity for people to experience what they go through every single day," said Senior Airman Jude Laguana, a 154th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician who rode in an incentive flight. "It was definitely something that is going to fuel me, myself as an Airman, to proceed with my goal to become a fighter pilot as well. This just showed what the skies had to offer."
Partnered units from around the globe visit JBPHH routinely to integrate with the fifth-generation Hawaiian Raptors over the isolated and vast training spaces in the center of the Pacific Ocean.