News surrounding America's fifth generation fighter programs
has come in at a furious pace in the past few weeks. The latest bit of news
coming out of the Defense Department should delight many aviation enthusiasts
around the world.
The United States Air Force (USAF) officially deemed that
the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is suitable for Full
Operational Capability (FOC) status. FOC means that the F-22 Raptor’s
weapons systems and flight performance fully meet the Air Force's requirement and that
the aircraft can be deployed anywhere around the world.
The F-22 Raptor has fully trained pilots and support crew to
ensure its successful operations at home or abroad in wartime conditions. The
Air Force declined to mention if the F-22 Raptor would be deployed to Iraq
(like the high-profile V-22
Osprey) or Afghanistan.
"After years of collaborative effort, a key milestone
for the F-22 has been reached," said General John Corley. "The
Raptor's success at Langley with the integration of active duty and Guard
airmen is the showcase example of ACC's shared vision with Air Force leadership
for the Total Force Integration of tomorrow."
"This announcement means the F-22 is ready for
world-wide operations, should it be called upon," added Larry Lawson,
Lockheed Martin's Aeronautics executive vice president and F-22 general
manager. "It's a great day for our nation and for the men and women who
fly and maintain this incredible aircraft. They deserve the best our country
can provide, and the F-22 will stand in the gap providing air dominance and air
cover for those who defend us on the ground for the next four decades."
F-22 Raptors are currently deployed at Edwards AFB, Nellis
AFB, Tyndall AFB, Langley AFB and Elmendorf AFB. Raptors will also soon find a
home at Holloman AFB and Hickman AFB.
The news of the F-22 Raptor's FOC status comes just weeks
after the Pentagon reportedly
expressed interest in purchasing additional airframes. Concerns over
structural fatigue in the 30-year-old F-15 lead to the grounding of the all 442
USAF F-15A, B, C and D air-superiority fighters.
The F-22 Raptor's sister ship, the F-35 Lightning II, recently
took to the air again after a seven-month
grounding. The F-35 Lightning II uses technology cribbed from the F-22
program and will supplant the F-16 Fighting Falcon, AV8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet
and A-10 Warthog.