This photo shows how F-22s get rid of external fuel tanks

Image credit: Lockheed Martin

This is how an F-22 Raptor jettisons drop tanks.

Even if it has internal weapons bays, the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter plane relies on unstealthy fuel tanks when it needs to increase its range. Obviously, air-to-air refueling from a tanker is an option but since aerial refuelers are not always available, peacetime operations and deployments are normally conducted with external tanks carried on the underwing pylons.

But, if the operation required (almost) complete invisibility to radars (or should the need arise) fuel tanks would be jettisoned and the scene would be more or less as the one depicted in the image in this post taken in 2004 during the first F-22 inflight external tank jettison test.

Actually, jettisoning tanks would not give the aircraft “full stealthiness”: when the aircraft jettisons its tanks, the orifices under the wing for pylon attach bolts, fuel lines, electrical connectors, jettison pivot fittings are exposed and can become RCS “hotspots”, rendering the jet less than completely stealthy.
When pylons are not fitted, RAM covers are placed over the orifices.

 

About David Cenciotti 4452 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.

1 Comment

  1. David, unfortunately it’s not as simple as that… the F-22 doesn’t become stealthy after dropping its tanks and becoming “clean.”

    The problem is that when drop tanks are carried, orifices under the wing for pylon attach bolts, fuel lines, electrical connectors, jettison pivot fittings etc. must be open to connect with the pylon. Once the pylon is gone, these openings are exposed and can become RCS “hotspots”, rendering the jet less than completely stealthy.

    When pylons are not fitted, RAM covers are placed over the orifices, as visible in the linked photo (the diamond shaped patches), but these covers must be installed on the ground before flight and there’s no way to install them in flight once the pylon is gone.

    http://www.airliners.net/photo/USA—Air/Lockheed-Martin-F-22A/1788512/&sid=e458cd4aa26cc881d5258e6e9910e900

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