KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- U.S. Air Force F-22A Raptors from the 525th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson, Alaska, with support from a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Japan, traveled to Clark Air Base, Philippines, to integrate and train with Philippine Air Force 5th Fighter Wing counterparts, March 13-14, 2023.
“This was the first time that F-22s, or any 5th generation aircraft, have landed on and operated out of the Philippines,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Karl Schroeder, a Raptor pilot assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron. “This milestone with a regional ally aids in providing stability and security to the Indo-Pacific.”
The trip to Clark was accomplished with support from a small team of Airmen and a minimal footprint, exercising another primary focus of the U.S. Air Force, agile combat employment.
Day one kicked off with a lunch where PAF members introduced U.S. Air Force personnel to a spread of various traditional Filipino dishes. The cultural meal was followed by subject matter expert exchanges detailing the capabilities of each nation's respective fighter aircraft, and a static tour of the F-22s, the KC-135 Stratotanker and the Philippine FA-50PH multi-role fighter aircraft.
The next morning, the F-22’s and two FA-50’s took off to engage in coordinated in-flight integration and show off each aircrafts’ respective capabilities.
The F-22 is a highly maneuverable fifth generation stealth aircraft possessing advanced features including supercruise, or the ability to sustain flight at supersonic speeds without the use of afterburner. The FA-50 is a light combat fighter known for its speed and agility.
“With any operation there are always multiple roles and responsibilities to make the mission happen,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Joe Baumann, a Raptor pilot assigned to the 525th Fighter Squadron. “With the FA-50’s capability for precision strike and the Raptor’s ability to establish air dominance, we make a lethal combo to support one another on multiple mission sets.”
The first phase of flight was a low flyover tour. The Raptor pilots were able to get their eyes on the layout of the land, as well as the different Philippine air bases. Being familiar with the airspace and the territory below will allow for increased capability and integration in the future.
During the second phase of the flight, the Raptors engaged in air combat maneuvering, or dogfighting, while the FA-50s observed. The aircraft then transitioned into formation work and a demonstration of air to air refueling with the KC-135 over the South China Sea.
“This was a unique opportunity to demonstrate the power and importance of being able to refuel in the air to extend the combat capabilities of our airframe and to show just how capable and maneuverable the Raptor is in a basic fighter maneuver engagement,” Schroeder explained.
The Raptor pilots said their whole experience at Clark was top notch, from the hospitality immediately after landing, to the professional briefs, planning, and integration. Baumann said he left the exchange with a valuable sentiment in his mind:
“It doesn't matter where you go, a fighter pilot is a fighter pilot. There is always the hunger to continue to learn and improve, which is what makes us lethal operators in the air.”
U.S. Pacific Air Forces and the Philippine Air Force work together through bilateral training and subject matter expert exchanges to promote interoperability, thus strengthening our alliance with the Mutual Defense Treaty and enhancing stability throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
“This opportunity demonstrated the commitment to our partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Baumann said. “It is important for us to integrate with our allies to show that we have the capability to conduct safe and effective operations anywhere in the world while supporting multinational objectives.”