The head of the US Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC) has qualified to fly the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
Gen Mike Hostage started training to fly the stealthy fifth-generation fighter in solidarity with the Raptor pilots under his command. F-22 pilots have been experiencing a series of hypoxia-like physiological incidents which have yet to be explained.
"I'm asking these airmen to assume some risk that exceeds the norm in day-to-day training, and I have to be willing to do it myself and experience firsthand what they do," Hostage says.
According to the USAF, Hostage completed the initial F-22 transition course at the Raptor formal training unit (FTU) at the 43rd Fighter Squadron at Tyndall AFB, Florida, on 27 June. Once he returns to Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia, Hostage will undergo additional training in the Raptor, the USAF says.
Normally, pilots undergo basic aircraft qualification at an FTU before being assigned to an operation squadron. Once at an operational unit, a pilot has to undertake mission qualification training in order to be certified to go to war as a wingman.
However, because of the unusual circumstances under which Hostage ended up flying the Raptor, the general will be operating with a number of F-22 squadrons throughout the USAF.
Four-star general officers very seldom fly operationally with line units.