Military Aviation

EXCLUSIVE: SOURCE CLOSE TO F-22 PROGRAM REVEALS THAT COATING MAINTENANCE WHILE IN SUPPORT OF COMBAT OPERATIONS OVER SYRIA WAS NOT BEYOND THOSE EXPERIENCED DURING NON COMBAT OPERATIONS

ICR

As we have reported on Feb. 1, 2017, Lockheed Martin recently completed the first F-22 Raptor at the company’s Inlet Coating Repair (ICR) Speedline facility, where periodic maintenance is performed to maintain the special exterior coatings that contribute to the Raptor’s Very Low Observable (VLO) radar cross-section.

We also claimed that during ICRs Lockheed Martin applies a new, self-developed, more resistant radar-absorbing coating to F-22s who (as we have explained in a Dec. 6, 2016 post)  were thought to have started to lose their radar absorbing coating during military operation in Syria.

But the reason why Lockheed Martin is performing ICRs on the U.S. Air Force (USAF) 5th Generation fighter is not currently linked to the issue the aircraft experienced in Syria.

In fact a source close to the F-22 Raptor program, who wishes to remain anonymous, explains that “The ICR’s that are currently being performed are for the oldest of the jets which are used to train new F-22 pilots. If you notice in the LM press release there is a quote from the 325th Maintenance Group Deputy Commander. The 325th Fighter Wing is home to the 43rd Fighter Squadron who owns the oldest non-test jets in the fleet with the oldest coatings that are now almost 15 years old.

F-22 Coating Maintenance

“This is planned and scheduled maintenance that has been in the works for a few years and the speedline is to help take some of the load off of the depot. The improved coatings are part of the evolution the LO coatings continually go through to improve the life and performance.”

Moreover our source adds that “This isn’t in response any deployed issues. There have been jets down range but those have not been the jets that require ICR’s. At least not yet. The jets in general require regular coating maintenance but there haven’t been any with coatings flying off in the AOR that would require LM to develop a new coating.”

Finally our source explains that “Even though deployed Raptors do require coating maintenance, I can say with confidence that there was no coating issue beyond what we see with normal LO Mx. Coating performance before, during and after the deployment have remained the same. As valued of an asset as the Raptor is we would have had to pause Raptor operations if an issue would cause a compromise to its capabilities. It would have been a very big deal if that was the case considering how often we are requested by not only U.S. but partners nations also.”

Stay tuned for additional updates if further details on this story had to come to light.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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