Unknown: F-22 Raptor covered with a mosaic of reflective material

WASHINGTON – Military aviation photographer Santos Cáceres managed to capture an interesting innovation on the hull of the American stealth fighter of the fifth-generation F-22 Raptor during its takeoff from the Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. BulgarianMilitary.com has learned that the photo is new and was taken on November 19, 2021.

Unknown: F-22 Raptor covered with a mosaic of reflective material
Photo credit: Santos Caceres

The photo shows that the “normal skin” of the F-22 Raptor has a carefully placed metal coating similar to tiles, precisely applied so as not to interfere with the key access points of the air jet, fighter sensors, and critical areas, and antenna areas.

Experts from The Drive say that such a metal coating has not been seen so far on such a class of aircraft by the US Air Force. It is assumed that this particular fighter tested the new coating in flight. It is not clear what the purpose of the metal coating is.

Military analysts point out that this is not the first time that American engineers have tested such components. Last year, in June, test flights of Scaled Composites Model 401 “Son Of Ares” also attracted attention, as the aircraft was covered with a reflective metal coating. The debate among experts at the time was in-depth and offered a variety of options for indoor use – from advanced infrared sensors to laser guidance systems.

The mention of infrared search and tracking systems [IRST] is not accidental. Currently, the US military is in the process of various tests of such systems. The concept is that in the future, infrared systems and laser systems will become leaders on the battlefield, and therefore, dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles in the United States receive such developments and are tested under different conditions.

There is a good reason for the F-22 Raptor to be part of the test program of such systems. This fighter often encounters thin and cold air, as it flies at altitudes above 60,000 feet (18-19 km), makes it at a certain angle, and often in the upper atmosphere. Experts suggest that tests at such heights are relevant to the innovations being tested. Otherwise, the Pentagon would use a standard fighter, such as the F-15 or F-16.

The very fact that the United States is investing in such a development suggests that this mirror metal coating of the F-22 Raptor is important for the United States and the highly changing geopolitical environment. It is possible that this mirror coating has evolved into a modular and non-invasive application that is now part of this development ecosystem.

F-22 fleet received $ 10 billion budget

As we reported on November 6, the U.S. Air Force signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade its F-22 Raptor fighter. The agreement concluded under the Advanced Raptor Enhancement and Sustainment program or ARES provides for up to 10 years of maintenance and modernization of the fifth-generation fighter.

According to the US Department of Defense, the contract will cover services including upgrades and technical support for Raptor. Lockheed Martin will also provide logistics services and upgrade equipment kits.

If all the terms of the contract are met, the Pentagon expects the work to be completed by October 31, 2031, that is, by the time the F-22 can theoretically retire.

Earlier, the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, General Charles Quinton Brown Jr., spoke about the phasing out of the F-22 and the rationalization of the fighter fleet.

High-ranking Air Force officials are confident that this fighter will not have enough of its combat capabilities to provide an advantage in the air in the next decade.

At the same time, in the future, the United States plans to put into operation aircraft such as the F-35, F-15EX, F-16, and the sixth-generation NGAD fighter.


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