Man Climbs on $143 Million F-22 Raptor, Plus 4 Other Amazing USAF Pics

The USAF has a real knack for making Americans feel secure and the rest of the world's population amazed. And I don't mean only because of its impressive arsenal, but also thanks to the way it chooses to advertise its might, be it mechanical or human.
USAF crew chief inspecting an F-22 Raptor 6 photos
Photo: USAF/Master Sgt. Mysti Bicoy)
F-22 RaptorHH-60W Jolly Green IIB-2 SpiritThunderbirds F-16 Fighting FalconsF-35A Lightnings and KC-135 Stratotanker
We've been running for a while now weekly coverages of the most impressive photos of gear and personnel in action the Air Force regularly releases because we're all suckers for incredible machinery being put to impressive use. But I have to admit, few of the image released this past month are as impressive as the ones we have here, the ones the military branch thought representative for the week that ended.

As usual, there are five of them to discuss in the lines below, and they show anything from an alien aircraft-shaped strategic bomber hiding in the shadow to fighter aircraft coming together around tankers like animals around a watering hole. In between, all sorts of never-before-seen images of man and machine bonding or engaging in some sort of incredible (and dangerous) activity.

5. Two Lightnings in the same place

F\-35A Lightnings and KC\-135 Stratotanker
Photo: USAF
We'll start with that image of fighter aircraft coming together around an aerial tanker because it's one of the most common occurrences in the skies of the world for America's military aviators. After all, the nation is the largest operator in the world for these flying gas stations, with some 700 such planes currently in operation.

Our image here shows one of these planes, a KC-135 Stratotanker, being visited by a pair of F-35A Lightning IIs in the skies over the Joint Pacific-Alaska Range Complex, during the impressive Red Flag-Alaska 23-3 that took place there earlier in August.

It's of course not the first time we've seen instances of F-35s refueling mid-air, but rarely from this angle (which points to at least a fourth plane being in the area), and with two of these amazing fighters so close to the tanker.

As to why they need to refuel, I'll remind you an F-35 has an estimated range of almost 1,400 miles (2,200 km), but when it has access to fuel mid-air, that range grows virtually to infinity, capped solely by the pilot's ability to stay alert.

4. The Jolly up USAF's sleeve

HH\-60W Jolly Green II
Photo: USAF/Senior Airman Zachary Rufus
When it comes to helicopters too the American military is unrivaled in this world. As per the numbers compiled by Global Fire Power, the U.S. had close to 5,500 helicopters in operation last year, and more are of course coming.

One of the most recent helo variants to be included in service, at least until the flying machines of the FARA and FLRAA programs get here, is the HH-60W Jolly Green II. Having achieved Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in the fall of last year, the helicopter is now beginning to get increased attention from the USAF's PR people.

We see one of these aircraft in the pic above, captured as it was going about its business during an air-to-air combat exercise that took place earlier in August over the Nevada Test and Training Range.

The HH-60W Jolly Green II is officially meant to replace the aging HH-60G Pave Hawk, and it's based on the UH-60M Black Hawk. Designed for anything from combat to search and rescue roles, the helicopter comes with a new fuel system but also the latest in terms of sensors, defenses, weapons, and cyber-security.

With over 100 of them to be made for the USAF's immediate needs, expect the helicopter to become a more constant presence in the military branches' regular releases.

3. Is that a strategic nuclear bomber hiding in the shadows?

B\-2 Spirit
Photo: USAF/Airman 1st Class Joseph Garcia
Well of course it is. After all, even the most basic knowledge about military aircraft is enough for anyone to recognize the unique shape of the B-2 Spirit even from this angle and in such bad lighting.

The pic we have here, snapped earlier in August, is one of those rare instances when we see the bomber inside a hangar, and not out in the open or flying high up in the sky. The hangar is located at the Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, and the plane had just returned from an undisclosed Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission.

As the USAF says, BTFs are "designed to provide assurance to allies while deterring adversaries," and you’d think the plane's capabilities would be more than enough for that.

Taking its power from four 17,300-pound-thrust General Electric engines, the $1.1 billion (fiscal 1998 constant dollars) plane can fly at just under the speed of sound, can reach any place on this Earth, and can drop both conventional and nuclear bombs.

2. Double the Falcon, double the fun

Thunderbirds F\-16 Fighting Falcons
Photo: USAF/Staff Sgt. Breanna Klemm
At the end of last year, one of the final images the USAF released for 2022 showed two F-16 Fighting Falcons flying so close to each other, one of them inverted, that kind of made one question reality. And this new image is not far in terms of awesomeness.

Just like the planes from December, these two F-16s are flown by the Thunderbirds, the USAF official demonstration team. The image was captured in mid-August at the Rochester Air Show in New York.

We're shown a variation of the stunt performed back in December, seen so perhaps because of the angle of the camera, or because the maneuver was not yet complete when the shutter was triggered, but the incredible achievement remains.

One of the planes, flying upside down, is slowly descending toward the one below, slightly to its left, so that in the end we get a perfect blend of two fighter jets.

You can get to see the stunt being performed live at one of the coming air shows the Thunderbirds are scheduled to attend. The closest to us is the one taking place this week in Boise, Idaho. It will be followed by five shows in September, four in October, and the season ender which takes place in November in Florida.

1. Domesticating the Raptor

F\-22 Raptor
Photo: USAF/Master Sgt. Mysti Bicoy)
You know those images of Dwayne Johnson sitting in the shadows looking all mean and menacing, perhaps in some insane setting? That's exactly the vibe I got when setting my eyes on this photo here.

What you're looking at is not the Rock, but a crew chief with the 199th Air Expeditionary Squadron. He's perched on top of an F-22 Raptor, not as a means to subdue it, but while inspecting the plane following one of the aircraft's missions.

The plane had just returned from an exercise flight performed during exercise Talisman Sabre 23 which took place at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal at the end of July.

The image may seem to show a strange way of conducting inspections, by climbing on a plane, but it's something that routinely happens. And don't worry, the $143 million Raptor can take it.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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