F-22 # 02-4037 which was badly damaged when it failed to lift off during a touch-and-go at Tyndall Air Force Base (AFB) on May 31, 2012 will soon be serviceable again next March after a six-year repair job.
Details on the repair effort were recently disclosed at the Aircraft Structural Integrity Program conference in Florida by Joseph Nelson, a U.S. Air Force (USAF) civilian working in the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center.
As explained by Flight Global the process to return the aircraft to service condition offers a glimpse into the effort the USAF will undertake to keep as many of the limited number of F-22 fifth-generation fighters flying rather than writing them off after extensive damages.
The repair effort began shortly after the mishap occurred when a team of USAF, Lockheed and Boeing structural repair experts convened to analyse damages valued at about $35 million, according to Nelson’s presentation.
In addition to repairing scratches to the skins of the wing and the stabilator, the USAF also replaced the skins and doors of the central and aft fuselage.
The analysis also showed that two internal components – a fuselage bulkhead and a section of wing skin – required the USAF to install metallic and carbonfibre patches, Nelson’s presentation shows. The most significant repairs were made to the bulkhead known as flight station 637, where buckled webs needed to be replaced with large structural patches.
Currently the USAF is finalising the repairs to the FS 637 and the wing skins.
Noteworthy # 02-4037 will return around the same time that the USAF plans to re-introduce # 91-4006, another mothballed F-22, to flying status. This Raptor in fact is being brought out from storage at Edwards AFB to be returned to service.
The USAF fiscal year 2018 budget justification documents in fact states the F-22 program will add another operational test aircraft to the fleet by taking one aircraft “out of flyable storage.”
This jet is an engineering, manufacturing and development model aircraft with a Block 10 avionics.
A USAF spokeswoman says the aircraft is being modified before joining the operational test fleet.
Actually modifications worth $25 million to upgrade the parked Raptor to a Block 20 avionics standard have already started. The service will also modify basic systems including hydraulic, electrical and flight controls.
The F-22 fleet stands at 137 combat-coded aircraft, 15 test aircraft and 31 training aircraft.
As we have previously reported Congress voted in 2009 to stop purchasing the F-22 stealth fighters after just 187 were made, hundreds less than the USAF had planned.
However even though several studies have been made to reopen the F-22 production line, high costs associated with hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies and training and equipping additional pilots make impossible restarting the Raptor production.
Photo credit: Kaixian.tv and Teddy Techer
Artwork courtesy of AircraftProfilePrints.com
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