If anyone thinks I don't have the best job, take a look at picture #1. Yesterday, I flew on an F-16 from the Nellis Air Force Base (search) and we "chased" the new F/A 22. The F/A 22 is a stealth fighter plane that can out maneuver ANY fighter plane. This is picture #1 of those I flew with on Sunday. In the center of the picture is the Raptor (F/A 22) pilot. The others include my cameraman who flew in an F-16 and his pilot and the pilot of the F-16 I flew in. My F-16 pilot is training to become a Raptor pilot and has already flown it but on Sunday he flew me in the two seater F-16.
I was stunned by the F/A-22 (the Raptor). I thought that it would be a "new and improved" fighter plane —but I was stunned at how different it is from the F-16. It's ability to out maneuver the F-16 was so extraordinary that I was almost speechless. Frankly, the F/A 22 made the F-16 look weak and vulnerable. It simply is no match for the F/A 22. The F/A can do things like almost stop in mid-air which means that it can drop behind the F-16 and shoot it down from behind. If the F/A 22 pilot puts on his air brakes, the plane drops behind the F-16 ...the F-16 can also put on its air brakes but it can't stop as quickly. Hence the F/A 22 makes the F-16 a "sitting duck" from behind and simply shoots it down. This is only one small difference. If you watch tonight's show, you will see more. I assure you, you will be stunned that a fighter plane could be so different, so much better and so much more dangerous to the enemy.
Picture No. 2
Here is a picture that I took of the Raptor from the F-16 in which I was flying. Incidentally, at one point our F-16 was only five feet — yes five feet — from the Raptor.
Picture No. 3
I took picture 3 from the F-16. Below are the mountains in Nevada.
Picture No. 4
Before the flight, I spent some time with General John P. Jumper (search). He is the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. He is very proud of the Air Force. We walked around the F/A 22 in a hangar and he described its characteristics to me. See picture #4 of the General and me.
Picture No. 5
The Air Force made me feel very much at home. Here is the flight suit I was given to wear. Note the name tag they had made for the suit. All flyers get nicknames and the one they gave me was "Fair" (I got a name tag with that on it) and my cameraman who went up in the other F-16 was given "Balance." I kidded my pilot and asked him whether he thought I was given the name "Fair" to describe how he thought I would do with the maneuvers we were about do on the F-16 as we tried to keep up with the F/A 22.
Picture No. 6
This picture is of the area where missiles are loaded on the F/A 22. Note how they are carried inside the aircraft rather than attached to the exterior.
Picture No. 7 [See photo essay]
This picture was taken from the F-16 I was in when I looked up at one point. Notice the open area where missiles and bombs are carried (see picture 6.) Needless to say, my pilot and I would have been "cooked" if this were not simply an exercise.
I hope you watch the show tonight and I hope we do justice to the F/A 22. This is no ordinary fighter plane...and it is not simply an upgrade of other fighter planes. This one is so different and makes our Air Force so dangerous to anyone who dares to take it on. This plane can do the unthinkable. This truly seemed like the future right now.
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