So I was all set to fly out to Okinawa, Japan, to cover the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor’s first overseas deployment. But then word came that several of the birds had suffered software malfunctions en route to Okinawa from Hawaii. All 12 jets from the Virginia-based 27th Fighter Squadron turned back to the Aloha State … and my trip got bumped by two weeks.
Good news this ain’t. More than any other in-service fighter, the Raptor is software-driven. And any major glitches this late in the game are quite embarrassing and an obstacle in the event that the Raptor must go to war. Still, engineers are expecting to solve the problem this week and get the jets out to Japan this weekend, beginning three months of wargames that will pave the way for permanent basing of Raptors in Alaska and Hawaii, where they will be ideally positioned to counter North Korea and emerging Asian threats.
Despite being designed for the Cold War over western Europe, the Raptor with its long legs, high speed and powerful radar is perfect for Pacific operations. So much so that Australia considered applying for a small purchase to replace its F-111 Aardvark bombers. That option has been ruled out by U.S. export laws … and the Aussies have settled on a combination of Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and (later) Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightnings.
Cross-posted at Ares