Officials today would not disclose why three missile-armed Hawaii Air National Guard F-22 fighters were scrambled Sunday afternoon for an “irregular air patrol” requested by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“The 154th Fighter Wing launched two F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam at approximately 4 p.m.,” Pacific Air Forces said in an email. “A third was launched at approximately 5 p.m.”
The Hickam-based Air Force command added that the FAA requested that U.S. Indo-Pacific Command “conduct an irregular air patrol and the situation resolved, prompting the fighters and a KC-135 Stratotanker (a refueling plane) to return to base. We cannot discuss further specifics of the situation.”
Indo-Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith referred questions about the incident to its subordinate Pacific Air Forces command.
The FAA was equally cryptic: “We have a close working relationship with the military,” spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email in response to a query asking why the military jets were requested.
In 2017, two armed F-22s were scrambled from Hickam to escort an American Airlines flight bound for Honolulu after a 25-year-old Turkish national opened a restricted door leading to the airfield ramp in Los Angeles and was arrested, but later was allowed to board the flight to Honolulu, officials said at the time.
A few hours into the flight, passengers told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the man was restrained by a flight attendant and passengers as he tried to rush into the first-class section with a blanket over his head.
In Honolulu, the man was handcuffed and escorted off by FBI agents.
The Air Force has F-22s, pilots, maintainers and weapons crews on call 24 hours a day at Hickam to respond to air threats to the Hawaiian islands as part of an air defense alert mission.