F-22A Raptor Flying Training Deployment 2017
RAF Lakenheath, UK
Sunday October 8th 2017 saw the 48th Fighter Wing (FW) at RAF Lakenheath welcome six Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptors on a short Flying Training Deployment (FTD). Aviation in Action visited the Suffolk base to report on their presence:
Arriving just 18 months after twelve F-22A’s from the 325th FW at Tyndall AFB had carried out the same feat, the Langley based Raptors and approximately 150 airmen stopped off on their route home after a six month operational deployment to the Middle East. Originating from both the 27th and 94th Fighter Squadron’s (FS), forming part of the 1st FW at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, the six aircraft touched down on Sunday October 8th to begin a two week training deployment. During this time the F-22’s would be working with the 48th FW, the Royal Air Force and other NATO ally and partner nations.
Exercise Eastern Zephyr
The main focus of the deployment was for the Raptors to participate in Exercise Eastern Zephyr; an exercise led by the Typhoon Qualified Weapons Instructor Course on 29(R) Squadron at RAF Coningsby. As a Royal Air Force spokesperson confirmed, it is designed to increase partnership and capabilities between the US and UK whilst also bringing together large numbers of fourth and fifth generation aircraft operating together in UK airspace. With the RAF’s F-35 Lightning IIs due to arrive in the UK next year, the interoperability between fourth and fifth generation aircraft will become a daily occurrence in the UK, so Eastern Zephyr was a chance to develop and refine fighter integration at the tactical level with both the F-22A Raptor and Typhoon. In addition, the 48th FW’s very own F-15C Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles participated.
|''Any time that we get the opportunity to train with our partners, it provides invaluable lessons on how to work together on a specific mission set but more importantly it sends the message to the region and to the world about our shared commitment to a secure Europe''.
Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd FS Commander
In particular the deployment was important for the 94th FS due to their historical ties with the RAF as the squadron’s commander Lt. Col. ‘Habu’ inferred, dating back to 1917 prior to operations during WWI. The Commander commented that over the course of the exercise, the squadron had conducted local familiarisation training across the UK and participated in multiple large force exercises involving up to 40 aircraft at one time.
Whilst present in the European Theatre of Operations, the US Air Force was keen to flex their muscles with forward deployments to both Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany and Powidz Air Base in Poland. The purpose of both forward deployments were to demonstrate the ability to quickly respond and reassure allies and partners that the United States Air Force is here, in Europe, forward and ready. Additionally they served to enhance the US deterrence posture in Europe by improving the readiness and responsiveness of US Forces.
|''The deployment of fifth-generation combat aircraft to the European AOR is a concrete example of how the U.S. is engaged, postured and ready with a credible force to assure, deter and defend in an increasingly complex security environment''.
Gen. Tod D Wolters, US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa Commander
On each occasion, two F-22A Raptors were supported by 10 airmen and equipment from the 27th/94th Fighter Squadrons plus a KC-135R Stratotanker from the 100th Air Refuelling Wing (ARW) at RAF Mildenhall.
Further Raptor Presence
Upon completing the operational deployment in the Middle East and after being relieved by the 325th FW, a further six 1st FW F-22s arrived at RAF Lakenheath on Tuesday October 17th, taking the total number on base up to twelve. The additional six Raptors were not taking part in the Flying Training Deployment, but joining their compatriots before eventually departing the UK and returning back to the States in two cells of six aircraft across Thursday October 19th and Friday October 20th.
|AIRCRAFT ON DEPLOYMENT|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||08-4154||94th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||08-4155||27th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||08-4171||94th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||09-4172 / 27 FS||27th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||09-4175||94th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||10-4192 / 192 FW||192nd FW (ANG Unit) / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||08-4153||27th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||09-4176||27th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||09-4179||94th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||09-4182||27th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||09-4183||94th FS / 1st FW|
|Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor||09-4185 / 1 OG||27th FS / 1st FW|
Credits: Article and photography by Aaron Paxton, additional photography by Darren Willmin