Ryan praises F-22 after chase flight
Released: 12 Jan 2000
by Ray Johnson
EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- It's not often that an F-16 is left in the wake of another jet fighter, especially when the Fighting Falcon is thundering along at more than one and half times the speed of sound. But that's what happened when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan flew chase during an F-22 Raptor test mission here Jan. 11.
Ryan's chase flight was part of a two-day visit, during which he received briefings on 21st century weapon platforms such as the F-22, Joint Strike Fighter and Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles.
Following his hour-long sortie, the general spent 30 minutes talking to the media on subjects ranging from the Raptor, to base closures and future Air Force challenges. Right before Ryan spoke, an F-22 began a steep climb above Edwards with an accompanying F-15 Eagle -- the current air-superiority fighter it aims to replace -- straggling behind. Leveling off, the F-22, which can reach supercruise without its afterburner, left the Eagle further behind.
When asked how he felt about the F-22 after his ride, Ryan half-jokingly replied: "I'm even more rabid about it."
Ryan said his F-16 was "flat out at Mach 1.6" during the chase sortie, but the F-22 "walked away from us."
"I'm really impressed with the airplane," Ryan said, adding that it's a needed capability on which the Air Force and contractors have worked very hard as a team.
However, he stressed the next-generation fighter isn't for now, it's for the future when tomorrow's airmen will face threats they haven't seen in the field today.
Plus, a combination of modern missiles, up-graded fire control systems and improved maneuverability have put some foreign planes on equal footing with U.S. jets. It has created parity the general doesn't want.
"I'm not interested in fair fights," said Ryan, who flew 149 combat missions during the Vietnam conflict. "What I'm interested in is a 100 to nothing score, not 51-49."
Driving home a point, Ryan added that he doesn't want parents who send their children into battle to think they are doing so with anything less than the best technology, including the F-22 -- which would be first to respond.
"We need this airplane," he said. "We should never ask our folks to go into the toughest test of combat in the first days of any war without it."
Touching on other subjects, Ryan noted people issues are at the forefront for him. He said the Air Force can have the best machinery in the world, but it's not much without quality people to operate it. Consequently, Department of Defense leadership has been working hard for pay raises, retirement, pay-table reform and basic housing allowance improvements.
As for this year, the general wants more attention given to medical issues. DOD, he said, is working hard to bring TRICARE "up to the expectations that our people have and what should be delivered to them."
Base maintenance funding is another of Ryan's concerns. His resolution: another round of base closures. "Quite honestly," he said, "we have too many bases. We need another base closure and realignment sometime in the future, so that we can get rid of the excess. We need a base structure that equals our force structure."
During his visit here, Ryan also visited Global Hawk test facilities. The chief of staff calls himself a big fan of UAVs, noting that he used them extensively when directing NATO air combat operations in Bosnia Herzegovina while serving as commander of the 16th Air Force and Allied Air Forces Southern Europe in Italy.
"Obviously, UAVs are fearless, and they will go where I would not otherwise send a manned vehicle because of threats," he said.
Could there be a day when all Air Force reconnaissance and surveillance work is done by UAVs, such as the Global Hawk and Predator? "Possibly," Ryan said. "But that's all down the road. But it's being looked at, just as combat UAV concepts are under review."
With testing and evaluation occurring daily here on programs such as Global Hawk and the Raptor, Ryan called Edwards "a crown jewel of the Air Force."
"This is where the seed corn is planted for our future," he said.
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