Technically speaking, the first of this new breed of aerial fighting machines was the F-22 Raptor. This one had its first flight a quarter of a century ago, and entered service in 2005 with the promise of being a revolution in terms of capabilities. And it was all that, for a while, but a series of outside factors, including the lack of a state, near-peer adversary that could justify the spending with these things, led to the aircraft’s discontinuation in 2011.
That doesn’t mean F-22s aren’t flying anymore. Lockheed managed to make and deliver a number of them, and the U.S. Air Force (USAF) has some 183 F-22s in active inventory, as of August 2022. Given how those are all of them, and the USAF is the only military branch in the world to field F-22s, that’s something.
As it usually happens when it comes to military aircraft, the F-22 has its own demonstration team too. It’s not meant to advertise the plane to foreign nations for commercial gains, but the plane itself to locals for reassurance and outsiders for deterrence,
The F-22 team is 12 enlisted members-strong, and up until last year was commanded by Maj. Joshua Gunderson. You can see him performing a flip of his F-22 in this recently released USAF Photo of the Day, snapped during the Orlando Air and Space Show at the Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida back in October 2022.
The image is probably among the last we’ll see with Gunderson at the controls, as in early December the Air Combat Command (ACC) announced a new talent will climb on board for the 2023 air show season, namely Capt. Samuel “RaZZ” Larson.
According to the ACC, fans of the F-22 will probably enjoy the plane’s capabilities just as much as before, as Larson has 750 flying hours at the helm of machines like the T-6 Texan, T-38 Talon, and F-22 Raptor.
As per the available info at the time of writing, the F-22 Raptor demo team’s season opens in February at the Australian International Air Show in Avalon. It will only be in March when the team will perform for the first time this year in the U.S., at the Barksdale Defenders of Liberty Air Show.