By Maj. Debbie Magaldi
No fanfare or balloons. No speeches or fuss. Feb. 16, 2006 was quiet, sunny and clear - just the way Lt. Col. Phillip Guy and Maj. Patrick DeConcini wanted it, as they climbed into two F-22As on the parking ramp at Langley Air Force Base (AFB) for an air-to-air training sortie. On the surface, the event appeared routine. But, their flight that day added a unique footnote to the rich aviation history of Langley AFB and the active duty’s 1st Fighter Wing (FW), and marked a significant milestone for the 192d Fighter Wing of the Virginia Air National Guard (ANG).
On that day, the first two-ship flight of Virginia ANG piloted F-22As took to the sky over Langley AFB in the Air Force’s newest fighter and the world’s premier air dominance aircraft, the F-22A Raptor. “We celebrate this milestone,” commented the 192d Fighter Wing’s Lt. Col. James Cox, a senior Virginia ANG fighter pilot now at Langley working on the integration. “I congratulate these two men who have been a pivotal force in securing our proud unit’s future. Well done! I look forward to the first four-ship.”
In the early 1990s, the 192d Fighter Wing was among the first of all ANG units in the nation chosen to fly the F-16C as that aircraft was transferred from active duty to ANG service. With slightly less than 70 miles separating the two units, the 1st and 192d Fighter Wings, interacted on a regular basis conducting Dissimilar Air Combat Tactics (DACT) training with each other several times each year.
As the Air Force moved into the 21st century with increased operations tempo and the realization that new, more capable aircraft entering the AF would result in a smaller inventory and far fewer units needed to fly them, senior Air Force leaders initiated a study to integrate the 192d FW and the 1st FW.
The integration is called a Classic Associate construct, with the goal being an enhanced warfighting capability of the 1st FW through the functional integration of Virginia ANG personnel, but with separate administrative chains of command. The project is one of many objectives of the Air Force’s Total Force Integration initiative (TFI).
Guy and DeConcini have flown with each other in the F-16C for close to five years at the 192d Fighter Wing, based at the Richmond International Airport. In July of 2005, Guy became the first Virginia ANG pilot to complete the F-22A fighter transition course at Tyndall AFB, Florida. He attended the course with pilots from Langley’s 27th Fighter Squadron. DeConcini followed in a subsequent class.
Guy has been flying with the 27th FS for more than seven months, waiting for his first flight with a fellow Air Guardsman. “It was great to have Major DeConcini going up with me,” Guy said. “It took us back to when I certified him as an F-16 Instructor Pilot; now we’re in the upgrade process with a new jet.”
The pilots are impressed with the F-22A, “It is awesome to be flying the leading-edge fighter platform in the Air Force,” Guy said. “It is a great fighter. Historically the Air Guard flew the older ones; this is a very exciting time for the Virginia Air Guard.”
It is equally exciting for the pilots to be flying with the 27th Fighter Squadron, the oldest continually active fighter squadron in the Air Force. “The history here and being a part of a new chapter in that history is incredible,” DeConcini said. “The 192d also brings a very rich history - going back to World War II - that we take pride in and celebrate. We are glad to be moving into a state-of-the-art fighter and a mission that will take us into future.” For the 192d FW, flying the F-22 on an active duty base is another step into the Total Force and another step in making the Air Guard a more integral part of the Air Force. This move also helps establish longevity for the unit as it moves into a fighter that will fly for the next 20-plus years and out of the F-16C which will be retiring in the near future.
Another first for Guy and DeConcini will come late in May when the ANG pilots will fly the F-22A alongside 27th Fighter Squadron pilots in Alaska at Northern Edge 06, the Pacific Command’s premier joint training exercise designed to practice combat operations, and enhance interoperability among the services. It will be the first operational exercise for the F-22A.