EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — In Greek mythology, a phoenix is an extraordinary bird that is born again, rising from the ashes of its predecessor.
A video aptly titled, “The Phoenix Rises,” played at a ceremony held Aug. 27 in Hangar 1635 to celebrate the rebirth of one of the original F-22 Raptors ever built.
Base leadership joined the 411th Flight Test Squadron and F-22 Combined Test Force, along with Lockheed Martin and Boeing representatives, to welcome back to life Raptor #91-4006, which has been on the ground for almost six years.
The fifth-generation fighter was one of the first F-22 Raptors to have avionics installed for testing and has been at the 411th FLTS since it arrived in May 2001.
However, 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.
“This was a gainfully employed airplane when she was working,” said Steve Rainey, Lockheed Martin F-22 chief test pilot and member of the F-22 CTF. Rainey also emceed the ceremony.
After eventually getting approval and funding from the Air Force to overhaul the Raptor, a “purple” team of Air Force, Lockheed and Boeing personnel worked for 27 months here 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 extends the Raptor’s life from 2,000 flight hours to 4,000 FH and gives it newer avionics systems for testing.
Rainey was the first military F-22 Raptor pilot while in the Air Force and has worked on the Raptor program almost since its beginning. It was only fitting that the rise of the new phoenix was completed July 17 when Rainey took the newly refurbished Raptor to the sky for its “second first flight.”
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.”
Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing commander, said he has flown 4006 numerous times when was assigned to the 411th FLTS as a project pilot and later as a squadron commander.
“Our warfighter needs her back flying again,” said Teichert.
Today, the Air Force has 183 Raptors in its inventory and boasts that the F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft.
The F-22 Raptor’s combination of stealth, supercruise capability, maneuverability and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities from previous generations of fighters. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.