Lt. Gen. Gary North, commander of Air Forces Central, says he’d like to see the F-22 come to Southwest Asia as soon as is possible—but for training purposes only. “I look forward to when we can get it in the theater,” North told reporters Feb. 26 at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. He continued, “The rationale there is while we have introduced the F-22 into other parts of the world, it has not flown in the [US Central Command area of responsibility].” Bringing it there for exercises, such as the multinational training activities associated with the United Arab Emirates’ Gulf Air Warfare Center, is consistent with US efforts to build the partnership capacity of friends and allies there, said North. It would also allow F-22 pilots and maintainers “to wring out” the airplane in the hot weather and atmospheric conditions of the region, he said. “We are, if you will, hopefully in the queue soon” for the F-22’s introduction into that part of the world, said North. We know that the Air Force had planned to include several F-22s in a GAWC training course around the end of 2007, but those plans were subsequently scrubbed.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self Defense Force recently, as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S., as the bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.