On August 27 in Hangar 1635 at Edwards AFB, California, one of the original Engineering, Manufacturing Development (EMD) F-22 Raptors was ‘re-born’.
The 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force welcomed Raptor serial 91-4006 back into service after being grounded for almost six years. In November 2012, Raptor 4006 needed costly upgrades and the decision was made to put it into storage, possibly never to fly again due to the budget sequestration at the time, according to Lt Col Lee Bryant, 411th FLTS commander and F-22 CTF director.
After eventually getting approval and funding from the USAF to overhaul the Raptor, a ‘purple team’ of Air Force, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing personnel worked for 27 months at Edwards to restore the jet back to flying status. This included 25,000 man-hours and almost 11,000 individual fixes/parts. The completed refurbishment extended the Raptor’s life from 2,000 to 4,000 flight hours and gave it it newer avionics systems for testing.
On July 17, Lockheed Martin F-22 test pilot Steve Rainey flew the refurbished fighter. Raptor 4006 is currently the oldest flying F-22. It will now be used as a flight sciences aircraft, which will be an integral part of F-22 fleet modernization. ‘It increases our test fleet from three to four, giving us another flight sciences jet,’ said Bryant. ‘This will help us tackle the expanding F-22 modernization program.’
The oldest flying F-22 was Raptor 07 (serial 91-4007), which completed its 1,000th sortie on April 19, 2013, piloted by Rainy, however, the USAF said it was returning 4006 to its test fleet by the end of 2017, which slipped to July 2018. Raptor 4006 was equipped with Block 10 avionics but it has been upgraded to Block 20 standard at a cost of $25 million. The Raptor’s hydraulic, electrical, and flight control systems have also been upgraded.