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Thu, May 11, 2023

Raptor on the Mend Returns to Service

Refurbished F-22 Raptor Takes to the Skies After Years of Repair

One of the precious few F-22 Raptors left in the fleet has returned to service after years of repair, completing a test flight at the 514th Test Squadron's home base of Hill Air Force Base.

The crew at the aircraft's station in Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has been on the hunt for replacement parts for more than half a decade, hoping to return the aircraft back to service after a takeoff mishap in 2018. The aircraft was disassembled and shipped up north to JBER, where crews began the arduous process of bringing tail number AF-07-146 back to airworthiness. The missing piece came when an F-22 at Eglin AFB incurred damage during a landing. Crews from JBER were quick to head over and see what parts they could pluck from the bird, nabbing a leading edge, a pair of flaps, and a seat for Raptor number 146. The parts allowed them to finally get the ever-present hangar display back together, and out the door fir the first time in a while. The revamped Raptor completed its rebalancing and burner runs with no issues, paving the way for its first test flight. After taking to the skies in the hands of the 514th at Hill AFB, the bird was given the go-ahead - though in classic warbird fashion it didn't return home without a laundry list of niggles to take care of.

The affair highlights the level of commitment Air Force personnel continue to show for the few Raptors left in the fleet. While cheaper, more plentiful 4th gen fighters can be 'totaled' from some damage, the cost and relative scarcity of 5th gen aircraft pushes crews to bring them back to the flightline wherever possible. The fact that only 187 F-22s were produced throughout the model's production run has made them ever dearer to the Air Force, particularly now that the F-22 is just as much a political scalpel as an air superiority fighter. 

“There are only so many F-22s in the inventory,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master sargeant Adam Willeford, the 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron senior enlisted leader. “We have a really distinct and important mission when it comes to fifth-generation aircraft and the power we project. Every aircraft in the fleet is highly valuable for mission success, so returning this one to operational status is a big win for the team.”

Soon, Raptor 146 will return home to its Alaskan home to once again take to the skies with a 3rd Wing airman on the stick.

FMI: www.af.mil

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