One of the most technologically advanced fighter jets ever is at Nellis Air Force Base and pilots there are getting a chance to experience all its capabilities and talk about it. Investigative reporter George Knapp has the story. Aired on Sept. 1, 2004, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas.
It’s like a young Mike Tyson with wings. The biggest baddest bully on the block. The F-22 Raptor is already flying higher, faster, farther and packing more firepower than any fighter plane ever conceived. It’s stealthy like an F-117, fast like an F-16, packs a punch like an F-15. But is far superior to all of those and to everything else in the sky.
Simply put, it is one bad mama jama.
“This is the big boy, not on the block but, on the entire planet,” said Maj. Robert Garland.
Garland is in the enviable position of being one of the first Air Force pilots to get behind the controls of the Raptor. Seven of the warplanes are based at Nellis Air Force Base. Since the first arrived last year, a little has been said about how the program is progressing. The base commander gave his OK for a status report, which allowed the people who know the Raptor best to almost gush about its capabilities, even from those still loyal to the F-15.
“The F-15 is a great weapon system,” Garland said. “It was very successful in Iraq.”
Garland continued, “So, this Raptor is going to be that much better and you just want to go, it’s not just that much better, it’s a whole new dimension. Once you get it airborne and you actually get to compete with it, fight with it against other threats, it’s just not fair. And that’s the way it should be.”
Nellis officials confirm that during a recent test maneuver over the Nevada desert, the Raptor faced four enemy aircraft F-15s or F-16s, flown by mock aggressors. The Raptor not only took out all four of the others, it took them all out twice without breaking a sweat.
The pilots say the F-22 will not only provide total dominance in the air, its technical marvels will allow for total dominance of the entire battle space, air, ground, ocean, whatever.
At 60,000 feet, it flies higher than any other warplane, can zip along at Mach 2 without an afterburner, meaning it’s efficient so it can stay aloft longer. It’s so maneuverable, it can fire missiles while upside down, and it’s so stealthy that opponents will likely never see it coming until it’s too late.
“Because we are going so high and we’re going so fast, you can’t see us coming,” Garland said. “By the time, if you are lucky, to be able to see us, bam, something just hit you and you don’t have to worry about that anymore.”
The Raptor program will be based at Nellis until it becomes operational. At that point the program will be moved to Virginia. Until then, the Raptor’s sonic booms will reverberate through the Nellis ranges – a sound that’s a source of pride for the base.
“We are prepared to dominate everything we expect to see in terms of threats well into the next decade,” Garland said.