The F-22 Combined Test Force celebrated an impressive milestone April 19, when the oldest flying Raptor successfully completed its 1,000th sortie.
For members of the CTF, the aircraft, tail number 4007, is affectionately referred to as the “James Bond jet,” referring to the aircraft’s tail number as well as its lethality and good looks.
“We had a plane-side ceremony, wrapped around the James Bond theme. It turns out our own tail number 007 has a lot in common with the silver screen ’007.’ It’s a great looking jet and it’s one of the most lethal jet’s on the planet,” said Lt. Col. Daron Drown, F-22 CTF director.
According to Lt. Col. Devin Traynor, F-22 CTF director of operations, the mission tested the Raptor’s next software upgrade.
“Just as you see software changes and updates to the operating system on your computer, we are working to upgrade the software on the F-22. This sortie was one of the first flight tests of Increment 3.2A, the next major software upgrade to the aircraft which will enhance its lethality and self-defense capability,” he said.
Boeing test pilot, Steve Rainey was at the controls for the jet’s moment in the spotlight.
“The milestone, compared to World War I when fighters flew 40 to 50 missions in their entire operational life before getting shot down, is huge by comparison,” said Drown. “These 1,000 missions were not reiterations of the same combat training mission – vast majority of these were very unique test missions.”
Since the jet’s arrival in October of 2001, the aircraft has participated in a wide-variety of ground and flight tests and in the true spirit of James Bond, the aircraft continues its vital role in weapons testing and development.
“It was the first F-22 to shoot an AIM-9M guided shot. On its second shot, it shot down a QF-4 drone target aircraft and put it on the bottom of the ocean,” said Drown. “In the early 2000′s, when F-22 was at the stage that the F-35 Lightning II program is now, if there was a guided missile shot or a bomb released-this is pretty much the jet that did it.”
While members of the CTF enjoyed the James Bond-themed ceremony, the real cause for celebration is the teamwork and manpower behind each mission’s success.
Through their hard work and dedication, members of the CTF continue the tradition of delivering leading-edge capabilities to the warfighter.
“It’s a great milestone; 1,000 sorties represents many, many more man hours of dedication and professional service in developing weapons of war for our Department of Defense,” said Drown.
“There was a lot of creative engineering work and a lot of elbow grease in maintaining the jet and we’re excited about what the next 1,000 sorties hold for this Raptor.”