A clip filmed few days ago at Nellis Air Force Base during WSINT exercise shows, among all the other interesting aircraft, the mysterious “Chrome” F-22 Raptor.
You probably already know it by know, but a really intriguing F-22 Raptor is flying over Nevada these days. The aircraft, unmarked (i.e. lacking evident tail codes and registration) was first caught on camera on Nov. 19, 2021, by the famous aviation photographer Santos Caceres as it “flexed” on departure from Nellis Air Force Base.
The aircraft‘s distinguishing feature is a “mirror-like” coating, never seen before on a Raptor. The reflective metallic coating appears to cover most of the outer “skin” of the aircraft leaving very evident panel lines, including some saw tooth ones above and on the sides of the fuselage (typical of stealth aircraft), as well as some unusual curvilinear ones (on the wings in the flaps area).
We don’t know what’s the reason for the new “Chrome” or “Mirror-like” coating, although it looks quite likely it was applied to carry out some testing activity, possibly related to IRST (Infra Red Search & Track) or other targeting systems. Last year, The War Zone reported that Scaled Composites Model 401 “Son Of Ares” demonstrators flew a number of test flights over China Lake ranges covered with a reflective metallic coating (similar to the one used on the F-22), speculating the mirrored target could be used in possible low-power laser systems testing.
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The F-22 with the mysterious reflective coating was also recently filmed by Rich Traiano of the popular “The Nellis Spotter” YouTube channel among the aircraft of all types launching and recovering at Nellis AFB during WSINT 21B. The clip provides a different look at both sides of the mirrored Raptor under different lighting conditions; needless to say, there are a lot of other interesting assets, including Aggressors’ F-16s, RC-135V/W Rivet Joint as well as plenty of F-35As (BTW, some appears to be in full “stealth mode” – i.e. they don’t carry external AIM-9X launchers nor radar reflectors).
Anyway, fact that the F-22 with the experimental coating took part in WSINT is, alone, worth of note too.
Weapons School Integration (WSINT) is the culmination of the USAF Weapons School: after 6 months of Weapons Instructor Course, students are put to the test during head-to-head engagements against one another simulating near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China, embedding themselves in each other’s skirmishes. Instructors rate and evaluate the engagements from the planning phases all the way to execution.
“WSINT is not only the capstone event students must pass to complete the U.S. Air Force Weapons School Weapons Instructor Course, but it is perhaps the most multi-faceted. WSINT generates capable leaders who can not only plan, integrate and dominate in any tactical setting but can also lead any spectrum of teams, who are ready to deliver strategic transformational change.”
“We’ve learned over time that our adversaries model their training after our own tactics as executed in theater. So, if we are training to win, we must learn how to defeat ourselves. We are our greatest competition,” said Col. Jack Arthaud, U.S. Air Force Weapons School commandant in a public release from last year. And, based on The Nellis Spotter‘s video, it looks like the “Chrome F-22” is playing a role in that crucial training this year.