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AF declares F-22A ready for combat

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- The Air Force’s most advanced weapon system is ready for combat, Air Force officials here announced Thursday.

In reaching initial operational capability, the F-22A Raptor has been certified ready for employment. Declaring the transformational fighter IOC means the Raptor’s proven capabilities are now available for use in combat around the globe and are supported by a properly trained and equipped force. It also means the aircraft is qualified to perform homeland defense missions when required. In the words of Gen. Ronald E. Keys, Air Combat Command commander, “If we go to war tomorrow, the Raptor will go with us.”

“F-22A IOC means our warfighters now have an unprecedented lethal mix of air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities at their disposal,” Gen. Keys said. “The Raptor’s cutting-edge technology brings us continued joint air dominance despite advancing enemy threats.” 

Reaching the IOC milestone culminates a collaborative effort between various Air Force organizations and the service’s industry partners during the past 25 years. The road to IOC included the F-22A System Program Office turning Air Force requirements into a successful acquisition program; developmental flight test and evaluation, simulation and ground testing at Edwards AFB, Calif., and Eglin AFB, Fla.; engine testing at Arnold AFB, Tenn.; missile testing at Holloman AFB, N.M., and over the Pacific Test Range; tactics development at Nellis AFB, Nev.; pilot and maintenance training at Tyndall AFB, Fla.; and deployability here. 

“The F-22A fulfills a long quest to bring fifth generation capabilities of stealth, supercruise and precision to the warfighter today and 30 years from today,” Gen. Keys said. “Now that we have met our first promised milestone of a fully capable, multi-mission platform ready for combat, we are already focused on furthering our integrated tactics development, refining our deployabilty, and growing and training our force. To add to what we learned on our successful first operational deployment to the Utah Test and Training Range to drop JDAMs, fly against double-digit SAMs at Nellis, and work (close air support) with F-16 FAC-As, we will conduct our first routine peacetime exercise deployment by taking 12 Raptors to Alaska in June for Northern Edge.” 

Designed to ensure America’s air dominance for years to come, the F-22A will ensure U.S. Joint Forces’ freedom from attack and freedom to attack, even as our adversaries continue to advance their weapons and technologies. 

“As I told (Air Force Chief of Staff) Gen. (T. Michael) Moseley, he and I have spent our lifetime executing, instructing, and providing Air Dominance for the Joint Force. Lamentably, we have never been privileged to hold a weapon like this in our hands. After reviewing our test results, seeing our operational deployment performance, and talking to the pilots that will go to war with it, I am confident that the F-22A joins the combat force at a far more mature and capable level than any of our previous great aircraft, and will take its rightful place in a long line of U.S. Air Force legends of the air,” Gen. Keys said. 

The first combat-ready Raptors currently are assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron, one of three squadrons assigned to the 1st Fighter Wing here. 

The current 27 FS combat deployment capability with the F-22A is a 12-ship deployable package designed to execute air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.