9:39 PM

Gotta love that swagger

O.K., admit it, we all dream about being fighter pilots. Those pilots who say they do not are lying.

So it is with completely green envy that I pass along that the first dozen F-22 Raptor Stealth fighters are now operational and ready to pounce on anyone, anywhere, from their home base at Langley Air Force Base, VA.

The Air Force says the new F-22A Raptor is such a dominant fighter jet that in mock dogfights its pilots typically take on six F-15 Eagles at once. Despite the favorable odds, the F-15s, still one of the world's most capable fighters, are no contest for the fastest radar-evading stealth jet ever built.

At a cost of about $160 million EACH ($350 million when R & D is factored in), these are not cheap airplanes. But when you hear Lt. Col. David Krumm, an F-22A instructor pilot talk about the Raptor, it may very well be the baddest thing flying.

''The F-15 pilots, they are the world's best pilots. When you take them flying against anyone else in the world, they are going to wipe the floor with them. It's a startling moment for them to come down here to Florida and get waylaid by the F-22A,” Lt. Col. Krumm said.
But you’ve got to love this jewel of a quote from Lt. Col. Krumm, spoken as only a fighter pilot CFI can: ''We want to kick the door down [with the F-22A] so the air space is clear for any other aircraft you want to send in. Someone could come in flying a Cessna 172 with a pistol if you wanted after we're done.''

Or this one, also from the Lt. Col.: 'The capability to fly at supersonic speed without using fuel-guzzling afterburners saves us a lot of gas and opens up a whole host of things when you start talking about dropping bombs. You can imagine if you are 60,000 feet doing mach 1.9 (about 1,400 mph) and these bombs are flying out of your airplane, the swath of hell you can produce going through a country saying 'I'll take that target, and that target','' Krumm said.

One of the most challenging things for an F-22A instructor like Lt. Col. Krumm is that the Raptor is a single-seat fighter, which means only the most experienced fighter pilots, capable of flying such a high-tech plane solo, will be selected until the program becomes more routine. “When you strap on $160 million of taxpayer money, it's by yourself with me nervously flying alongside you going, `Please don't screw up, please don't screw up,' '' Krumm said.

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