An F-22 Raptor participating in the Air Force’s Topgun program appears to have retracted its landing gear too early during take off, resulting in the fifth generation fighter slamming back into the ground and skidding to a stop over the weekend. The incident, which took place at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, has been characterized as a significant mishap, and likely will cost millions of dollars to repair. The pilot was able to exit the aircraft under his own power.
While details pertaining to the circumstances of the incident remain slim, Warzone writer Tyler Rogoway reported that Elmendorf public affairs officers confirmed the incident occurred and said that the damage sustained by the F-22 was “extensive.” SOFREP contacted Elmendorf Air Force Base, but was unable to confirm the details.
The F-22 was reportedly in Alaska to provide an adversary to students attending the Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, which movie fans from the 1980s may recognize as Topgun. The F-22, like a number of other combat aircraft that occasionally even include foreign sourced fighters, offer an opportunity for pilots to engage in mock combat drills one on one, against a surprise opponent.
While such an incident could be considering embarrassing in any kind of aircraft, belly flopping an F-22 is an even larger issue. Unlike America’s other fifth generation fighter, the F-35, America has a finite supply of F-22s, despite their reputation as the most capable fighter on the planet. The F-22, which was also designed and built by Lockheed Martin, saw its program cut under the Obama administration in favor of reduced defense spending. As a result, the entire infrastructure required to produce the legendary Raptor has since been shut down and repurposed.