Source: Tyler Rogoway

A highly intriguing U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighter was caught in the camera lens of talented aviation photographer Santos Caceres as it blasted out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada on the morning of November 19th, 2021. The aircraft is seen largely covered in a tile-like reflective metallic coating that is unlike anything we have seen on a Raptor ever before. 

While the F-22 can look drastically different when its intricate skin coating and delicate composite stealthy structures are in various states of repair, one sporting polished metal has never been seen before nor does it make any outright operational sense. Note how the coating has been carefully applied to not interfere with the jet’s many key access points, sensor and antenna areas, and other critical systems. 

While what we are exactly seeing here is still up for debate, it looks like the Raptor in question has a mosaic of reflective material applied to its normal skin for some sort of testing purpose. It just so happens that we have seen something uncannily similar before but on an even more exotic airframe.