by Senior Airman Joan King
3rd Maintenance Group
11/23/2012 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Many
are surprised to discover that the largest organ the human body has is
the skin. Skin provides a physical barrier against harmful, external
factors. The F-22 Raptor, much like the human body, has a layer of skin
called low observable.
LO not only assists in retaining the jets' stealth capabilities but also
prevents corrosion and other damages. Like human skin, the F-22's
coating consists of several layers. The surface of the F-22 appears to
be a simple gray paint, but in reality the high-tech surface renders one
of the largest fighter jets virtually undetectable by radar.
"Arguably the most important capability of a fifth generation fighter,
like the Raptor, is what low observable delivers - the stealth," said
Air Force Maj. Patrick Pearson, a 3rd Wing F-22 pilot.
The benefits of stealth technology may escape some in terms of air
combat. The ability of the F-22 to prosecute a lethal attack while
remaining undetected is why it has the highest air-to-air kill ratio of
any other fighter in simulated combat. While incredible lethality has
defined F-22 tactics, the aircraft has also become known for its
"Survivability is the biggest [factor], so the jet and the pilot can
come back," said Airman 1st Class Emmanuel Marioni, 3rd Maintenance
Squadron LO technician.
Lethality and survivability are critical issues for the men and women in
the LO shop, comprised of active duty Airmen from the 3rd Maintenance
Squadron and reservists from the 477th Maintenance Squadron. Their daily
work readies F-22 pilots to defeat the most advanced adversarial
aircraft and surface to air missile systems.
Once a week, the LO shop conducts outer mold line inspections on the
Raptor. All the information is placed into a database that rates its
stealth capability, called a signature assessment system.
"The lower the SAS rating, the stealthier a jet is," said Senior Master
Sergeant Dave Strunk, 477th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight
LO application falls into two areas - the removal of coatings to
facilitate other maintenance and the removal and replacement to bring
the SAS rating down. The job of an LO technician can be a challenging
one requiring a high level of attention to detail and adherence to
"We are working all day every day," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew
Duque, 477th Maintenance Squadron LO technician. "We have 24/7 coverage
to ensure a steady flow of progress from the start of a repair to
finish. Our accurate cataloging of damages and sound repairs ensure that
the aircraft is performing as designed."
The skin from the body can be taken for granted until it is damaged. The
behind-the-scenes efforts of the men and women of the 3rd Maintenance
Squadron and the 477th Maintenance Squadron keep the Raptor at the top
of its game.
"The constant attention to detail and upkeep from our LO section is
essential to projecting the F-22's combat capability," Pearson said.
"Knowing that our jets are fully ready to go gives me the confidence I
need get the job done."
With reporting from Air Force Capt. Ashley Conner, 477th Fighter Group Public Affairs.