These Amazing Photos Provide A Detailed Look At The Second ‘Chrome’ F-22 Raptor

Second Chrome F-22
The "Symbiote" F-22 launching from Nellis AFB. (Image credit: Max Bradley)

Nicknamed “Disco” or “Symbiote” F-22, the new Raptor with a reflective coating has been one of the highlights for the photographers gathered outside Nellis Air Force Base for Red Flag 22-2.

A second F-22 with a mirror-like coating has been spotted flying out of Nellis AFB, Nevada. As already explained, the new coating on this second stealth aircraft appears to be much different than the one on the Raptor [IDed as airframe #04-4065] that made its first appearance in November 2021: it features smaller, mirror-like tiles applied on the nose section, weapons bay doors, fuselage and also inner and outer face of the twin tails.

This new Raptor (that could be the airframe #04-4070 took part in at least one Red Flag sortie (flying as part of “RAPTOR 01” formation on Mar. 17 afternoon – a four ship that included also the first “Chrome Raptor”). Several photographers were outside Nellis AFB to shoot the launches and recoveries of all the combat aircraft taking part in exercise Red Flag 22-2 and many of them took some stunning photographs of the “Disco” or “Symbiote” F-22 (how the Raptor has been nicknamed by the aviation spotters) that provide a better look at the peculiar coating of this second aircraft.

Here below you can find a selection of shots of the new “Chrome Raptor” that were taken by some of our friends last week and posted on Instagram. If you click on the embedded frame you can swipe the images and open a higher resolution version of the photos.

 

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A post shared by Max Bradley (@max_b_photography)

 

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A post shared by Dave O’Brien (@top_gunphoto)

Once again, we don’t know what’s the reason for the new “Chrome” or “Mirror-like” coating: among the various theories, there is the possibility the aircraft is involved in testing activities related to counter-IRST (Infra Red Search & Track) technologies or targeting systems, or it acts as a testbed for some technology that will eventually made its way to the 6th generation aircraft. Since the delicate radar absorbent material on some Raptors shows signs of degradation, someone suggested it could be used by the U.S. Air Force for testing some kind of RAM replacement. However, early consensus seems to trend towards an experimental skin used to equip the aircraft with a passive laser defense system: mirror tiles might be used to deflect energy of low power laser systems directed towards the aircraft.

Whatever the reason for the new coating, the differences between the first and the second “Chrome” Raptor are pretty evident. It would be interesting to know whether the results of the early testing activity helped shaping the modifications embedded in the second mirrored F-22, although it is also reasonable that both were conceived in that exact way since the beginning. Who knows, maybe in the following months we will also see other “Chrome” Raptors emerge…

For comparison, here’s an image of the first Chrome F-22. The differences with the second one are pretty evident (Image credit: Max Bradley).

 

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.