A US Air Force Boeing F-22 Raptor crashed yesterday (15/05/20) in Florida during a routine training flight. The aircraft, operating from Elgin Air Force Base, crashed at around 0915 local time and the pilot ejected safely.
After being recovered the pilot, who has not been named, was taken to the base hospital for observation.
The aircraft belonged to the 43rd Squadron, 325th Fighter Wing, a unit which trains converts pilots onto the F-22. At this time it is unknown whether a student or fully qualified pilot was flying the aircraft.
With this loss it is expected that another early Block 10/20 airframe will be returned to service from storage. Currently USAF have 18 aircraft in storage. Thirteen are combat capable Block 30/35/40 models, three are Block 10/20s, and two are development aircraft.
Currently the US Air Force expect to operate the F-22 until at least 2060. However, in the last sixteen years USAF have lost four aircraft. At this present rate, the 168 aircraft may note be able to equip all front line squadrons and as aircraft age they can become harder to maintain.
Entering service in 2005, the F-22 was a joint development by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, having beaten the Northrop/McDonald Douglas YF-23 Black Widow.
Keeping the aircraft serviceable is also made more difficult by the aircraft being deployed more in recent years.
The US Air Force has been using the aircraft to conduct airstrikes in Syria and Afghanistan. This, coupled with the aircraft being used for deterrence value has led to a strain on the type.
This use is above what was originally envisaged for the type and therefore the aircraft break more, requiring more spares.
Often when an aircraft is purchased a spares package is purchased that is based around expected part use. If this part use is more than expected air forces struggle to keep aircraft combat capable.
With this crash there is one less aircraft in storage that could be cannibalised for spares, thus further increasing the strain on resources.
Nick Ashwell-Rice has worked in aviation and defence journalism since 2014 whilst also maintaining a career outside of the industry. He has been Editor-in-Chief at Talking Aero since its inception