There’s Now A Second ‘Chrome’ F-22 Raptor Flying With Mirror-Like Coating At Nellis AFB

Chrome F-22
The new Chrome Raptor about to land at Nellis AFB on Mar. 17, 2022. (All images: Steve Fortson)

A second “Chrome” F-22 has been spotted at Nellis Air Force Base operating alongside other aircraft taking part in Red Flag exercise.

As we have reported in detail last year, there’s a sort of mysterious F-22 Raptor flying over Nevada since November. First caught on camera on Nov. 19, 2021, the unmarked stealth aircraft sports a peculiar “mirror-like” coating, never seen before on a Raptor. The reflective metallic coating covers 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), targeting systems, low-power laser system testing or is a testbed for some technology that will eventually made its way to the 6th generation aircraft. Considered the status of the delicate radar absorbent material on some Raptors, there are also chances the U.S. Air Force is testing some kind of RAM replacement.

Another image of the new Chrome Raptor.

Anyway, the aircraft with the peculiar experimental coating [IDed as 04-4065], has already taken part in Weapons School Integration (WSINT) missions, the culmination of the USAF Weapons School, when students after 6 months of Weapons Instructor Course, 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. In other words, the F-22 with the mysterious reflective skin has already been used for high-end training, likely playing the adversary role.

A second F-22 with a reflective coating has just been spotted at Nellis AFB. The new “Chrome” Raptor was first spotted on Mar. 17, 2022, by our friend Steve Fortson, who also took the photographs you can find in this article. The new coating on this second stealth aircraft appears to be much different than the one on the first one: it looks like smaller, mirror-like tiles have been extensively applied on the nose section, weapons bay doors, fuselage and also inner and outer face of the twin tails. Is the new coating the result of the testing conducted on the first one?

Click to open a high-rez close up crop of the F-22 shot. This allows you to catch the tiles applied to the new “Chrome Raptor”.

Once again, we don’t know what’s the actual purpose of the new coating on the new Raptor (believed to be the airframe 04-4070 – to be confirmed), although it’s remarkable that this F-22 also took part in at least one Red Flag 22-2 sortie (flying as part of “RAPTOR 01” formation on Mar. 17 afternoon – a four ship that included also the first “Chrome Raptor”). Therefore, the new coating is already playing some role in current realistic training.

About David Cenciotti
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 five books and contributed to many more ones.