Something new and dangerous is coming to Nellis Air Force Base. It’s known as the F-22 Raptor and the Air Force says it will be the key to America’s control of the skies for the next 30 years. Investigative reporter George Knapp has the story. Aired on Feb. 11, 2002, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.
An ominous looking warplane is expected to make its first public appearance in September 2002, when observers will be watching to see if it taxis down the runway at Nellis Air Force Base for the first time. It’s the F-22 Raptor, which will combine the speed of an F-16 with the firepower of an F-15 and the stealth of F-117.
Once operational, the Raptor will be the bad guy of the sky, able to fly farther, faster and packing more firepower than anything in the world. And because of its stealth capabilities, the enemy will never see it coming. Thus, the program’s motto: “First Look, First Shot, First Kill.”
“The bottom line of the F-22 is that it’s going to shorten wars and save lives,” said Bob Oberle, part of the F-22 development team.
“General (Michael) Ryan used to say we could win future wars without this, but we would win maybe 51 to 49 and we’re not interested in that. We want to win 100 to nothing,” Oberle said.
“The technologies will enable total air dominance,” Lt. Col. Dave Rose said.
Lt. Col. Rose is one of the pilots already flying the F-22 in testing under way in Southern California. That testing has proven the Raptor can do what it was designed to do: Inflict maximum damage with minimum risk. Rose says the advanced avionics and radar will allow the Raptor to see its enemy long before anyone knew what hit them. It’s maneuverability and handling will allow the warplane to do things other planes simply can’t do.
“Maneuverability is key,” Rose said. “And with this aircraft we’ll be able to do that well above 50,000 feet where no other fighter aircraft have the capability.”
Some pilot training is already under way using simulation cockpits that are housed in a special 757. Eventually other pilots will be able to fly the real thing.
Six Raptors should be at Nellis by September, a source of pride on the base.
But Nellis admits there may be side effects. The Raptor can cruise at supersonic speeds meaning it doesn’t need afterburners to go faster than sound. That’s not good news for communities like Alamo, which is already bombarded a few times a week by sonic booms that rattle homes and nerves.
The super-speedy Raptor will be a sonic boom machine. Although wary, folks in Alamo say they figure they can live with what some call “the sound of freedom.”
The Raptor will be the most expensive fighter in the world with a cost of $200 million to support and maintain each plane.