01/12/09 — Raptor landing for show practice

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Raptor landing for show practice

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on January 12, 2009 1:46 PM

If all goes according to plan, some local residents might catch a glimpse of one of the most advanced fighter jets on the planet this afternoon.

An F-22A from Langley Air Force Base is expected to land at Seymour Johnson today, as Air Combat Command's Raptor Demonstration Team looks to take a practice run before its performance at Wings Over Wayne 2009.

The air show, scheduled for the weekend of April 25, is expected to feature other acts, too -- the Navy Blue Angels, Army Golden Knights and the 4th Fighter Wing's own F-15E demonstration.

But those headliners have been seen in Wayne County before, unlike the Raptor, a $142 million aircraft with less than a decade of combat experience.

Some Seymour Johnson airmen got a chance to see the Raptor up close in 2007 when decorated Air Force Col. Matthew Molloy flew one in for a brief stint on static display.

The F-22's combination of day and night stealth capabilities, unmatched speed and a state-of-the-art weapons system make it close to impossible for an enemy to bring down or elude the jet, he told those who came out for a look.

And it has both air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities the likes of which have never been seen, Molloy added -- like its sophisticated sensor suite that allows the pilot to track, shoot and kill the enemy before being detected.

"For the pilot, it's really just a matter of, 'OK guys, we have eight missiles on the airplane. Who are the lucky eight who are going to die today?'" Molloy said then. "It goes Mach 2 and can get there fast. As its pilot, I am the biggest stick on the block."

So don't consider yourself disloyal to the F-15E if you stop to stare at the Air Force's newest -- and most glorified -- fighter as it rips through Wayne skies.

Those whose mission is to man and maintain the Strike Eagle will likely be staring, too.