A new era in aviation begins in Alaska

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Douglas M. Fraser
  • Commander of Alaskan Command
An exciting time has begun at Elmendorf Air Force Base as we welcome the newest, most revolutionary, most talked about air dominance fighter in the history of aviation.

The F-22 Raptor soon will be a common sight in the sky above Alaska, protecting America and the Pacific Theater. With its arrival, our Air Force is more capable than ever of fighting and winning our nation's battles.

As American Airmen, we take our Alaskan heritage and history seriously. We remember the words of one of our most visionary forefathers, Billy Mitchell, who said, "I believe that, in the future, whoever holds Alaska will hold the world. I think it is the most important, strategic place in the world."

These words couldn't be more appropriate in a summer that has seen the arrival of the F-22 as well as the most advanced global-reach asset in our Air Force, the C-17 Globemaster III.

History has also taught us that we cannot successfully fight tomorrow's wars by training to fight today's enemy. The war on terrorism has challenged our Air Force in combat with an enemy that uses crude tactics and primitive technology. Who would have guessed 20 years ago we'd have Airmen riding horses into battle in the 21st century? But that's exactly what we did in the opening days of the conflict in Afghanistan. We met the threat head on, and we succeeded.

It's important to note that as the fight with our current enemy grabs all the headlines, the nature of warfare is constantly evolving on several fronts. We cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that we may be called upon to battle an enemy whose technology and skills more closely mirror our own, and we may have to counter both types of threats simultaneously.

When that time comes, Air Force leaders don't want a fair fight. We want overwhelming air dominance that makes the fight patently unfair to the other guy. The F-22 is designed for just that: Total air dominance for decades to come.

The F-22 is proving its mettle right now at five bases across the country. With nearly 100 delivered, we're seeing exactly what this aircraft is made of and only scratching the surface of what it can do. Last year in Alaska it flew 97 percent of scheduled sorties during Exercise Northern Edge 2006. This year during its debut in the Air Force's premier air combat exercise, Red Flag, 100 percent of planned sorties were successfully generated while the F-22 scored 100 percent direct hits with its air to ground weapons.

The F-22's unique combination of stealth, speed, agility, precision and situational awareness combined with air-to-ground and air-to-air combat capabilities makes it the best overall fighter in the world.

And while the success and statistics associated with the F-22's performance are convincing of its value, it's important to note that this machine is worthless without the truly remarkable Airmen who fly and maintain it. The men and women of your United States Air Force are dedicated, selfless and determined to see that this great country is always protected. Now your Airmen in Alaska have received the most advanced air dominance fighter in existence to enable them to meet that commitment to our nation.

We stand ready, on a new frontier, providing America's top cover.

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