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F-22s Back in the Air (Updated)

by John Reed on September 20, 2011

FYI, the F-22 Raptors are back up in the air.

Here’s the Air Force announcement:

The commander of Air Combat Command directed a stand-down of the fleet May 3 as a safety precaution, following 12 separate reported incidents where pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms. The incidents occurred over a three-year period beginning in April 2008. Officials remain focused on the priorities of aircrew safety and combat readiness. The return-to-fly plan implements several risk mitigation actions, to include rigorous inspections, training on life support systems, and continued data collection.

“We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate,” Schwartz said. “We’re managing the risks with our aircrews, and we’re continuing to study the F-22’s oxygen systems and collect data to improve its performance.”

In a task force approach to implementation, Air Combat Command officials developed a comprehensive incremental return-to-fly plan that balances safety and the expedient qualification of pilots against the inherent risks of flying advanced combat aircraft, officials said.

The entire fleet will undergo an extensive inspection of the life support systems before returning to flight, with follow-on daily inspections, officials said. The aircraft is capable and authorized to fly above 50,000 feet. Pilots will use additional protective equipment and undergo baseline physiological tests. The return-to-fly process will begin with instructor pilots and flight leads regaining their necessary proficiency, then follow with other F-22 wingmen.

Prior to the stand down, ACC officials convened a Class E Safety Investigation Board in January 2011 to look into hypoxia-related reports. At the same time, a Hypoxia Deep-Dive Integrated Product Team began an in-depth study on safety issues involving aircraft oxygen generation systems.

In June 2011, the Secretary of the Air Force directed the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board to continue the oxygen generation study concurrent with the ongoing SIB. A releasable report will be made available later this year.

UPDATE: Gen. Schwartz just told reporters here that last year’s fatal F-22 crash in Alaska was definitely not caused by hypoxia. He said that it will take several more months to get all the combat– and training-coded Raptors up and running due to the inspections and the fact that pilots are going to need to re-qualify. Meanwhile, new F-22s will be inspected and delivered to the Air Force.

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

itfunk September 20, 2011 at 10:28 am

Nothing has been fixed, more pilots will die.

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David September 20, 2011 at 10:36 am

"More pilots will die" sounds a bit too dramatic, but it's ridiculous that they cannot fix/replace bad oxygen system.

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darkshadows71 September 20, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I find it really hard to believe that they haven't been able to figure out an oxygen system flaw after all this time. To me, there's something really foul smelling about this story. More likely, the jets were grounded to fix or upgrade, or even implement a new classified component that the Air Force has come up with the jet. Oxygen systems for performance fighters have been around for decades, and I can't seem to come to believe that the Raptor has something that even the astronauts that went to the moon or ride the shuttles used. Just doesn't make sense. Two plus two does not equal six.

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Mark September 20, 2011 at 12:16 pm

" Pilots will use additional protective equipment and undergo baseline physiological tests"

In other words, we haven't found the problem yet, so we are giving the pilots personal bottles of oxygen instead.

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Mastro September 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm

It may be the oxygen generator- or the pilot might have had epilepsy/sleep apnea/narcolepsy.

Hmm- I'l put my $$ on…

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m167a1 September 20, 2011 at 12:18 pm

If I recall the investigation determined that the 02 gen was not the cause of the Alaska crash, but that reports of hypoxia and some training issues remain.

If thats the case then the reaction is spot on. Stop using it, and gather more data. If you still don't have a cause nailed down test the heck out of it. If its still elusive then the answer may or any not be what you thought at first. So now you can use the item again but be careful until we have enough data that we trust it again.

I think Itfunk is just being a troll this morning.

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tiger September 21, 2011 at 8:25 pm

It's freaking September…… How much time do you need for a priority #1 item?

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Letsallbefriends September 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm

They know there is an issue but they can’t find the fault so they can’t fix it. Maybe that’s an inevitable risk when the technology is that complicated. 12 events in 3 years – wonder how many flight hours…

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TOM September 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm

YEEAHH FINALLY!!! I'm happy.

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Lance September 20, 2011 at 2:57 pm

About time. We need more F-22s and upgraded F-15SEs in service.

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j20sucks September 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm

maybe they did put it down to put some new classifed stuff in it

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Ben September 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm

You don't ground the entire fleet to make modifications that can be made at any time, incrementally. Besides, you make it sound like they're trying to hide something. If they were hiding anything from anybody it'd be the pilots, leaving them in the dark by keeping them away from their aircraft for so long. That makes absolutely no sense.

Fun idea, but extremely unlikely.

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blight September 20, 2011 at 9:42 pm

The special modification is likely to be prototyped in individual units and proven before you roll it out to the whole fleet. I mean, otherwise why would LM need test pilots?

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Tim September 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm

I truly doubt it had anything to do with a simple oxygen breather. They just needed an excuse to keep all them F-22 in hangars for something else, perhaps installing new sensors, etc. Or even a laser cannon and cloaking device… J/K…

Anyway, it's great news the Raptors are flying again.

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Guest September 20, 2011 at 6:02 pm

I like the idea. But makes no sense. They would have waited another year and and install that "whatever" fleetwide.

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Sgt Jmack September 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Because it takes a little time to retrofit these planes due to hte high amounts of electronics and heat signatures, etc…

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tiger September 21, 2011 at 8:28 pm

It's not like they were missed. They are not Close air machines. Nor was there a real air threat in Libya.

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BigRick September 20, 2011 at 7:01 pm

It's a sad commentary on our country when our military leaders lie as much as politicians do. Maybe they're training for a second career.

Our military leaders don't have to give up secrets, but to blame an oxygen generating system on the months long grounding sinks of cover up

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Sgt Jmack September 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm

We've gone too far wit hthis project to give up now. Reguardless of what is happening, it is good to see these planes in the sky.

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Elijah September 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Anyone entertained the notion that a muslim terrorist may have help assemble the equipment, worked with a tech crew, or worked in communications. Most of thier known leaders got some or all of thier education from an American school or an American sponsored insitution. Its unknow! How many are in our shops and factories working just to add disruption to our economy.

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blight September 21, 2011 at 9:29 pm

And the Chinamen. And the Russkies. And those anarchists. Did I miss anyone?

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Andrew M September 21, 2011 at 9:47 pm

Confederate and British loyalists

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Kski September 21, 2011 at 6:22 pm

They know they have a problem but have to research more into how to fix it. That's a convenient way of saying we don't have any money to fix it.

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Black Owl September 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Big deal that their back in the air. Super Hornets are out bombing the enemy and actually being used in war, but no one cheers for that as much they do for the Raptor. When the Raptor went on its first deployment to Japan people went ballistic. No where near the same reaction for the Super Hornet when it dropped twice as many bombs as all the Tomcat squadrons with 100% accuracy during the initial stages of the war in Iraq.

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Torch September 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

The Super Hornet is a great plane! I agree with you Black Owl.

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William C. September 22, 2011 at 12:59 am

The Raptor is almost a pure air superiority aircraft, and could wipe the floor with a Super Hornet in this area. Yet we haven't had to shoot down any enemy aircraft since the Raptor entered service, so it hasn't had a chance to show its stuff.

The F-22 can drop GPS guided munitions like 500-1000 lb JDAMs and 250 lb SBDs, but the USAF has been using other aircraft as bomb trucks. We only have a relative handful of F-22s, plus the F-15E and Block 50/52 F-16 can carry a wider array of ordinance and targeting pods.

Also, don't forget that the Super Hornet was quite unpopular for many years because it replaced the legendary Tomcat.

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halcyon_ September 26, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Glad the Raptor is back but I sure hope they sort out the O2 problems soon.

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TOM September 20, 2011 at 6:05 pm

easy here…I can finally go out and take some new photos of them… – it's a beautiful bird. Don't be that fast with your judgements.

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Black Owl September 21, 2011 at 11:53 pm

No! The JSF is a failure and the Super Hornet provides nearly all of the same technology at half price. Old technology is better than the new.

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