Alaska Is Prime Raptor Training Habitat

F-22 pilots assigned to the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, have day-in and day-out training opportunities that other units might not get to enjoy, according to a senior Raptor pilot based there. Indeed, the wing can put together a fairly robust training schedule with relative ease, taking advantage of Alaska’s vast military training airspace and the presence of the 18th Aggressor Squadron F-16s at nearby Eielson Air Force Base and E-3 AWACS aircraft and F-15Cs collocated with the F-22s at Elmendorf, said Lt. Col. Orlando Sanchez, director of operations for the 525th Fighter Squadron, one of two Raptor units in the wing. “Most bases, to get that kind of training, they would have to deploy to a Red Flag or Nellis,” said Sanchez, a former F-15C weapons officer and former weapons school instructor, during a telephone interview July 25 (see above). Still, the 525th will be deploying next month to a Combat Archer training exercise at Tyndall AFB, Fla., where its pilots can employ guns and missiles against targets over the Gulf of Mexico. “It’s one of our important steps to getting full up,” Sanchez said. In October, the unit will be participating in the next installment of Red Flag-Alaska, Sanchez said. He is looking forward to a future Pacific theater deployment, much like that being undertaken now on Guam by the 90th FS, the 3rd Wing’s other Raptor unit. “This is a test run for the Raptors at Guam,” he said. “Just talking with the guys, it sounds like operations are going well. We’re poised to take advantage of that asset in the Pacific.”