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Manufacturing defect may prove costly for F-22

May 3, 2006 (by Jeff Hollenbeck) - Recent routine testing of production F-22A Raptor fighters has found a manufacturing defect in the titanium used in the forward boom frames which may either shorten the expected 8,000 hour service life or require costly repairs.

View on the production line of the F-22 Raptor. [LMTAS photo]

The titanium that makes up the forward boom frames is both incredibly strong and lightweight, but it needs to be heat treated to obtain the proper grain structure in the metal. In the affected Raptors, 4017 through 4107, it appears that the metal was not left at a high temperature for a long enough period of time.

While this flaw is not immediately unsafe and no restrictions have been placed on the aircraft, it may shorten the useful life of those parts. The U.S. Air Force and Lockheed will continue to test the affected parts to determine what corrective measures need to be taken, but repairs may require removal of the wings of the affected aircraft for inspection which is a time consuming task.

The F-22 is the newest U.S. Air Force aircraft and is intended to take the place of the F-15 Eagle and the F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighter in the near future.

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