HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii National Air Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron and the Active Duty Air Force's 19th Fighter Squadron, is in full training mode with the arrival of the last four of its F-22 Raptors. The fleet is now complete, the first set started taking delivery in July 2010, and 18 are now housed on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (two are under depot maintenance on the Mainland).
"Locally, you are going to hear the jet noise of the sound of freedom a long time," said Captain Luke "Money" Swanson with the Active Duty Air Force's 19th Fighter Squadron. "This jet has an unique capability of stealth and super-cruise integrated avionics and exceptional maneuverability compared to other fighters."
This week, pilots and flight maintainers are on a practice mission called, "Air Combat Tactics." Such training is possible with the arrival of all the F22s that replaced the older F15s.
"We couldn't get the type of training that we are getting today and now that all of the airplanes are here we are able to train in a more realistic environment," said Lieutenant Colonel Glen Nakamura, Commander of the 154th Operations.
Today, they are suiting up and preparing for the day they may be called upon when in dire need.
"We were (practicing) escorting strikers to bomb a target and facing some real world threats that we expect to face, we plan to face, and we train to face," Nakamura said.
There is a lot to check off the list before these pilots get the thumbs up for wheels up.
"Ground operations makes sure the jet is working properly all of the systems, avionics, flight controls, all of that needs to be ensured, that all are working properly," Swanson said.
Earlier this year, an in-flight emergency was announced by a F22 Hawaii-based Raptor. The pilot reported to experience momentarily dizziness due to a lack of oxygen and today the Squadron Commander said they've learned that the stealthy aircraft is alerting pilots appropriately, and they are safe to fly.
"We learned the aircraft is stable, and it does report its deficiencies like it is suppose to and we are great to recognize that in the cockpit" said Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ladtkow, 199th Fighter Squadron Commander.
The Raptors are committed to keeping the skies over the Pacific protected.
"Once you learn to fly this airplane in combat, it is unstoppable and unbeatable," Nakamura said. "It is a game changer."
And they are also watching over the Aloha state.
"I am from Hawaii and of course being home on the islands is always a benefit. The weather is beautiful, the community is supportive and fantastic, so you can't be flying in a better place," Nakamura said.
Its sophistication is at another level beyond the F15s they use to fly here.
"I did really enjoy the F15," Nakamura said. "It was a very graceful airplane, a very wonderful airplane, but the F22 is hands down beyond anything that anyone else is putting up in the air right now. That is with all my experience as an F15 pilot, I am a believer it will be the deciding factor in any conflict."