One of the most secret US Air Force aircraft in the inventory is RAT55 (nickname), a classic Boeing 737 Series 200. The military designation of the aircraft is NT-43A.
The Boeing 737, serial 73-1155 (construction number 20702/362) and Air Force Material Command (AFMC) markings, had arrived at Ardmore Municipal Airport (OK) from Tonopah/Test Range (NV) on 1 June 2022 for some maintenance. The mission of the aircraft is to fly in front of stealth aircraft and use its onboard sensors to test the radar returns and signiture of the aircraft.
The aircraft started its life in July 1974 when it was delivered to the 323rd Flying Training Wing (FTW) at Mather AFB (CA) as a flying classroom for navigator training. In 1993 it was transferred to the 12th FTW at Randolph AFB (TX).
In 1997 it was removed from active duty and flown to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC), also known as the Boneyard, at Davis-Monthan AFB near Tucson (AZ). The 737 did not reside long at AMARC as it was flown to the Ogden Air Logistics Center (ALC) at Hill AFB (UT) for maintenance. From there it was flown to Goodyear (AZ) for the modification of the distinctive radomes on the nose and tail. In February 2001 it was rolled out in its new configuration.
The unit that operates RAT55 is still unknown.
Photo by Dayon Wong at Ardmore