'Noble Eagle' mission marks milestone for F-22A squadron
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va., (ACCNS) -- The 27th Fighter Squadron passed another milestone Sunday after completing an Operation Noble Eagle mission in the F-22A.
The Jan. 21 and 22 mission over the U.S. marks the first operational mission in the new fighter aircraft since it was declared Initial Operational Capable in December.
Operation Noble Eagle provides air defense over the U.S. and Canada in order to prevent a future 9-11 type attack. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, North American Aerospace Defense Command fighters have responded to more than 2,000 air events within the United States and Canada, and have flown more than 40,000 sorties in support of Operation Noble Eagle.
This vital mission is the first to fall to the 27th FS since they converted to the F-22A.
"Since becoming IOC, we now have the ability to deploy," said Lt. Col. James Hecker, 27th FS commander. "This is our first operational mission, the first mission where we've carried live ordnance. We're excited about it. Most of our pilots have done this before, but not with the Raptor. It's a big step for us and a big step for the Raptor program."
Capt. Geoff Lohmiller, 27th FS F-22A pilot, flew one of the ONE sorties. He said while it felt good to finally get a real mission under the F-22A's belt, the pilots looked at it like any other mission.
"It's not much different," he said. "We train for this every day. The great thing about this jet is that it has the capability to do so many different things."
Squadrons from Langley have conducted ONE missions in the past, but Colonel Hecker said the F-22A provides advantages to the operation that legacy fighters can't provide.
"ONE is one of many missions the Raptor is capable of," he said. "We bring some things to the mission that others can't. With its advanced sensor package, the F-22A has the capability to detect and track targets better than other fighters. We get a God's-eye view of the airspace and everything in it. And its supercruise allows us to intercept targets faster and further out."
Supercruise is the F-22A's ability to remain at supersonic speeds without the use of its afterburner, allowing for faster sustained speeds with lower fuel consumption.
Captain Lohmiller said the F-22A's sensors made a big difference.
"I felt I had a lot more situational awareness," he said. "There's a lot of stuff flying around up there. It's easier to keep track of them in this jet. It's all right at our fingertips."
Maj. Gen. M. Scott Mayes, 1st Air Force and Continental U.S. NORAD Region commander, said the 27th FS and the F-22A are welcome additions to the ONE mission.
"In a dynamic and changing global threat environment, the F-22 Raptor will enable our nation to best defeat emerging threats and provide our forces a decisive and overwhelming advantage," General Mayes said. "We look forward to fully integrating the Raptor's capabilities--alongside our smart mix of alert fighters, irregular air patrols, airborne early warning assets, improved radar coverage and connectivity, and a multi-layered air defense. With everything we bring to bear, we are posturing ourselves to fight not just today's war, but tomorrow's threat and beyond."
The 27th FS celebrated IOC Jan. 13, eight days before their first mission took place. Langley's 94th Fighter Squadron is next to convert to the F-22A, with its first jet arriving in March.