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Raptor Pilots Still Have What It Takes

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. David L. Goldfein
  • U.S. Air Forces Central
"Only the spirit of attack born in a brave heart will bring success to any fighter aircraft no matter how highly developed it may be." -- German Ace Adolf Galland in WWII

Much has been written lately about the challenges associated with the F-22 Raptor as we ¬continue investigating the root cause of oxygen-related anomalies. Some have questioned whether today's pilot has the same spirit of attack in his heart needed to bring success over the battlefield.

Make no mistake: Over here, where lives are at stake and ¬mission success depends on our willingness to fly to the sound of the guns, there is no hesitation. Our enemies of today and those who may choose to take us on in the future have reason to fear the spirit of attack that burns in the heart of every deployed airman.

As the combined forces air ¬component commander for U.S. Central Command, it is my job to integrate and fight with the forces sent forward from not only the Air Force but also from our Navy, Marine Corps and coalition teammates from around the globe. F-22 pilots who are deployed in the Central Command area of responsibility fly every day as part of this integrated team, training side by side with our regional partners. They don't shy away from danger.

Those pilots know they are part of the long blue line that began the day Orville Wright lifted off the field on that windy day at |Kill Devil Hills in 1903. For |more than a century, man and machine have taken to the air and -defended our nation and our allies shoulder to shoulder with our joint teammates "against all enemies, foreign and ¬domestic."

The spirit of attack is on display here every day -- the Raptor pilot flying a theater security cooperation mission across the Persian Gulf; the A-10 pilot firing his cannon into enemy troops in support of an Army platoon in Afghanistan; the F-16 pilot working with joint terminal attack controllers to place precision-guided munitions amazingly close to friendly forces; the British, Belgian, Dutch and Italian pilots flying and fighting every day as part of this seasoned and disciplined coalition.

We are inextricably connected to the giants who paved the way before us -- Chappie James, Robin Olds, Sir Douglas Bader, Joe Foss, Amelia Earhart, Lance Sijan -- and their spirit and legacy of courage lives on in the heart of today's airmen at war.

The spirit of attack isn't confined to a weapons system or restricted to those who strap on fighter aircraft for a living. In this AOR, every airman matters and every discipline is needed to bring the full complement of vigilance, reach and power to the fight. You'll find this spirit every day in our innovative space and cyber warriors developing capabilities inconceivable not long ago; in our spectacular B-1 crews who routinely fly 13-plus hour sorties; in our intelligence professionals who work tirelessly around the clock to support the fight both here and through reachback across the globe; and in our maintainers, defenders, explosive ordnance disposal personnel, air battle managers and contractors. The list is virtually endless.

This spirit is by no means confined to active-duty members. I challenge anyone to pick out who is active, Guard or Reserve on the C-130 crews delivering lifesaving supplies or the medical teams across the AOR who perform miracles every day. Over here, where the temperatures have already topped 120 degrees, we play the ultimate team sport and everyone is essential to delivering the full spectrum of decisive air power.

The Air Force will not rest until it gets to the bottom of what is going on in the F-22, no different than with previous weapon systems that pushed the technological envelope of their time. Until then, deployed Raptor pilots continue to fly without hesitation as part of a disciplined and highly trained joint and coalition team, sending a clear and unmistakable message to those who might choose unwisely.

We are here, we stand by our coalition partners, and we are ready. The spirit of attack lives on in the heart of every airman who wears the cloth of our nation.