F/A-22 Raptor at Nellis AFB, September 5, 2003

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I stopped overnight in North Las Vegas near Nellis Air Force Base on my way to Bryce Canyon last Thursday. I spotted a Lockheed-Martin F/A-22 Raptor of the 412th Test Wing on approach to Edwards Air Force Base that morning. I spotted an F/A-22 Raptor of the 53rd Wing's 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron breaking into the Nellis pattern while I was stopped at a red light on Craig Avenue that afternoon.

I found that the Air Force has recently posted signs prohibiting access to the area north of the runways where I used to shoot pictures of the Red Flag exercise participants.  Many photographers from all over the world are going to be very unhappy to lose that shooting location.  Now the closest shooting locations are along Las Vegas Blvd.  The nearest public land that is in line with the runways is two miles farther away.  The pool of the Best Western Nellis Motor Inn has a good view of fighters as they break into the right-hand pattern at mid-field.

I heard a jet take off before 7:00 on Friday morning.  A short while later I headed to a spot three miles off the north end of the runways to see what was flying.  Within fifteen minutes a pair of Boeing-McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagles of the 422nd TES flew over on approach to runway 21.  They were followed by a Lockheed-Martin F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES. 

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES There are currently four F/A-22 Raptors assigned to the 422nd TES.

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES The Eagles and Raptor made several passes around the pattern. 

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES The reflective properties of the surface coating of the Raptor were distinctively different from the usual matte gray finish of the other fighters in the pattern. It will be tricky to reproduce the finish on a scale model.

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES I managed to try out three shooting locations before the Raptor made its full stop landing.  While I wasn't as close to the runway as I used to get, I got some usable pictures in the low angle illumination of the early morning. 

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES

F/A-22 Raptor of the 422nd TES The edges of the flight surfaces and the engine inlets are covered in low-observable materials.


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Lockheed-Martin F/A-22A Raptors at Edwards Air Force Base

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Link to the Federation of American Scientists page about the Lockheed-Martin F/A-22 Raptor.

Link to the F/A-22 Raptor Team web site page about Raptors at Nellis.


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