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Military

Raptor completes operational refueling flight first

by Tech. Sgt. Genevieve S. Morris
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs


1/23/2006 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. (AFPN) -- Airmen from the 18th Air Refueling Squadron here took part in the first operational aerial refueling mission for the F-22A Raptor Jan. 21 in support of Operation Noble Eagle.

The F-22A Raptor was declared operational by the Air Force Dec. 15. It is the newest fighter aircraft for the Air Force, combining stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics.

During the eight-hour mission, the KC-135 Stratotanker transferred 18,200 pounds of fuel into two Raptors from Langley Air Force Base, Va.

The boom operator on the mission, from Wichita, Kan., was Air Force Reserve Tech. Sgt. Chris Norris.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever refueled an F-22 in operational usage; that’s what makes this kind of a big deal,” Sergeant Norris said. “The testing phase is done, and we’re finally taking it out. We’re making it official. It’s a whole new way to look at military fighters.”

Lt. Col. John Stanfield was the pilot on the KC-135 that carried the fuel for the Raptor. He said he understood the significance of the mission but described it as “just another day at the office.”

“Most of the time, we don’t even see the fighters,” Colonel Stanfield said. “The only way I have of knowing how far away he is and where he is, is from the boom operator.”

Members from the squadron have refueled the F-22A during training missions at Edwards AFB, Calif., so they were also involved in the testing phase of the new weapons system.

The unit normally refuels F-15 Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons, but now it is taking on the additional new aircraft in an operational role, said Lt. Col. Jon Woods, chief of current operations for the squadron.

Minutes after the refueling mission, the 916th Air Refueling Wing became the second unit to refuel the operational Raptor.



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