Air Force F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team Visits Milwaukee

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ryan Kuntze
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing
The air split with the thunder of two passing aircraft.

With poise and precision, the gray-hued jets began to turn. Water vapor trailed from their wings as the noise built to a cacophony.

The F-22 Raptors arrived at the 128th Air Refueling Wing on Thursday, June 10, 2010, to represent the Air Force during the Milwaukee Air and Water Show.

The Air Force F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team, based at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, travels throughout the world to promote the Air Force and showcase the superiority of the Air Force's most advanced fighter aircraft, said Tech. Sgt. Craig Bless, a crew chief assigned to the F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team.

"We'll go anywhere the security is right and we are planned to be," Bless said.

The Raptor demonstration team was founded in 2007 and performs between 17 and 30 shows per year, said Staff Sgt. Derek Hellman, a crew chief for the F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team, assigned to Langley AFB.

"There's nothing like doing a show someplace it's never been," said Maj. David Skalicky, the F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team commander. 

"I've seen the demonstration at least 100 times, and it never gets old," Bless said.

Hellman said the crew chiefs are responsible for ensuring the Raptors and their pilots are prepared for the planned aerial demonstrations.

The best part of being with the F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team is travelling, Bless said.

"Travelling is very cool," he said. "We get to do meet-and-greets with interesting people."

Bless said a 6-year-old boy with arm braces was in attendance for the team's previous demonstration.

"He was my favorite," Bless said. "He told me he wanted to be a pilot."

"Our show is made to showcase the combat capabilities of the aircraft," Hellman said. "This lets the public know what their Air Force is doing."

"When you see someone get excited to see what we do on a day-to-day basis, it brings you back to reality," Bless said. "Yesterday, we went to a children's hospital [in Milwaukee]. It was tough, but we held it together."

He said such visits are always new, and that it's great to see the children smile.

The F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team is different from other air demonstration teams because the Raptors are war-ready, while other teams' aircraft are strictly for show, Hellman said.

"[Other aerial demonstration teams] have dedicated aircraft," Hellman said. "We can use Raptors from any base."

"No one maneuvers like us," Bless said. "No one is as fast as us. There are no inexperienced Raptor pilots. These are intelligent aircraft, and we have the best pilots in the world."

Team members stay on for two years, Bless said. Half of the team, the half that has put in its time, is swapped out every year to allow knowledge and experience to be shared among the team members, he said.

Hellman said the team does not perform shows for personal recognition.

Bless agreed, saying that any profit made by selling promotional items for the F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team is donated to charities.

The Air Force F-22 Raptor Aerial Demonstration Team joined the Army Golden Knights and the Navy Blue Angels to highlight the military during the three-day 2010 Milwaukee Air and Water Show, held at Bradford Beach on the shore of Lake Michigan.