Home » Air » Air Force » Air Force lifts F-22 flight restrictions

Air Force lifts F-22 flight restrictions

by Brendan McGarry on April 5, 2013

The Air Force lifted flying restrictions on many F-22 fighter jets after upgrading their oxygen system and life-support equipment, the service said in a statement.

The move comes days after the U.S. military flew a pair of the aircraft to South Korea amid escalating tensions with the North, whose young leader Kim Jong Un has declared a state of war on the peninsula and readied missiles for a possible attack.

The timing of the Air Force’s April 4 statement “is strictly coincidental” and unrelated to the joint military exercises the U.S. is conducting with South Korea, said Kelly Sanders, a spokeswoman for Air Combat Command. The command is based at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and oversees the F-22.

The military’s most advanced fighter jet is made by Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Maryland, and its oxygen system is made by Honeywell International Inc., based in Morristown, New Jersey. It was the Defense Department’s most expensive acquisition program until Congress in 2009 voted to stop further production. The Pentagon spent about $67 billion buying almost 200 of the aircraft.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last year restricted flights of the F-22 after two Air National Guard pilots appeared on the CBS news program, “60 Minutes,” to say didn’t feel safe flying the plane. They complained of dizziness, disorientation, even something called “The Raptor Cough,” after the aircraft’s name.

The complaints weren’t new to the military. The Air Force temporarily grounded the planes in 2011 after more than a dozen pilots reported similar symptoms of oxygen deprivation, a condition known as hypoxia. It did the same in 2010 after pilot Jeff Haney died in a crash in the Alaskan wilderness. (The Pentagon’s own inspector general criticized the Air Force’s accident investigation.)

The service, which initially struggled to identify the cause of the problem, last year concluded that a lack of oxygen — not the quality of it — was causing the symptoms, due primarily to a faulty valve on the pilots’ life-support vest.

The Air Force fielded new vest pieces  in January and expects to finish installing automatic back-up oxygen systems on the rest of aircraft in the fleet by July 2014, according to the statement. Planes that have already received the upgrades are no longer restricted to flying at certain altitudes and within 30 minutes of an airfield, it said. Crews in Alaska have resumed missions, it said.

“Feedback from the field shows the F-22 community, including pilots, maintainers and family members, are confident in the safety of the F-22,” Sanders said in an e-mail.

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody April 5, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Well its about time….now its time to go teach that "Gangham" looking North Korean idiot leader who he's messing with, he just might do something or he will "lose face"….but hopefully China is telling him to chill out….I am confident that even if that idiot tries something, he will be sorry….well, his people will be, he'll be cowering in some underground bunker somewhere…


Musson April 8, 2013 at 9:10 am

With the timing of the announcement – I believe the USAF realsed them so they could participate in any upcoming NORK confrontation.


steve April 8, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Smells like PC and PR fast at work??? By the way Woody, don't sell the N.Koreans short, we did that when I was there once before…We lost a lot of good people there for that mistake….


USS ENTERPRISE April 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I doubt that this was a coincidence. I mean, come on. A few days after a demonstration of the F-22, the F-22 is allowed to "officially" fly. But really, that is just nitpicking. The plane is ready to blast the heck out of the NK's air force. Actually, the F-15 could serve that role just as well. Either way, great to see the -22 is "flying" again.


Josh April 5, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Obviously it isn't a coincidence. The US is preparing for a war with North Korea. It's highly unlikely it will happen, but the last thing we want to happen is that North Korea actually starts a war and kicks our ass for the first few days because we didn't take them seriously when they threatened us several times.


USS ENTERPRISE April 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Doubt it. No way they can kick anything or one. They cross the DMZ, and SK soldiers will fight back hard. Invasion tunnels? Bunker-busters. We might have serious causalities in the beginning, until the US Marines can be completely mobilized, but this will happen well before the "few days of NK winning". Besides, in the end, they will lose. Badly.


blight_ April 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Or carpet bomb the DMZ. Or use GPR to find the tunnels, track down the exits and kill everyone who leaves. Or drop a bomb on the entrance.

Tunnels are only interesting as long as you have surprise and the momentum to get far beyond the tunnels, and the ability to keep the tunnels functional. Tunnels without sufficient manpower to push the break fail. Tunnels that are detected are sealed. Too much manpower and not enough ability to progress beyond the tunnels (tactical mobility, attrition, etc) doesn't do a whole lot either, but it does tie down troops looking for tunnels.


Chops April 5, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Or how about 500 cbu cruise missiles right at the nk border.Eliminate the human equation.

Josh April 5, 2013 at 5:24 pm

The North Koreans have millions of soldiers read to fight. There are about 500,000 South Korean soldiers and 20,000 Marines. If they do attack S. Korea, they will have to advantage for a couple of days because they are on the offensive. This is why the US is taking the threat seriously. There is no way that N. Korea would win a potential war, don't think I am trying to say that.


STemplar April 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm

1 Million. Lots of reserves, but 1 million active.

citanon April 6, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Doesn't matter how many they have on paper. The army they can actually move and fight is only as large as food, ammo, and fuel supplies allow, which means no where close to 2 million, and probably or even 500,000.

After the first week the only thing slowing the SK army's advance to the Yalu River will be the problem of feeding starving NK defectors.

The main problem is the chemical artillery on the DMZ. In the couple of days it would take to destroy those weapons, you could have half a million dead people in Seoul.

Bill April 6, 2013 at 5:01 am

If war broke out, I guarantee NK would have policies akin to the Soviets during WW2; Retreat and be gunned down, Face death if you surrender, etc. – It would be pretty remarkable if all the conscripts in the country actually agree with their leader, let alone would follow him to war with the worlds strongest military and its allies. IMO, a NK civil war would be likely.


VetsTeam April 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

This wont be happen :)

Sicfree April 6, 2013 at 9:58 am

Well North Korea has close ties to China, and since China has been stealing our technology for god knows how many years.. it could get interesting. So if war happens itll be the next (real) war of our generation.


Restore Palestine April 12, 2013 at 1:10 am

The best US technology has been stealing money from its own citizens and people of other countries through reckless fiscal policies and endless money printing.

If China has been stealing US technology, why is China still exporting real products instead of inflation and wars?

BAO BAO April 7, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I agree with USS ENTERPRISE but NK doesn't have plan for invasion why?
NK want USA hear them again and respect NK power, USA must be careful because of Iran nuclear case if they engage NK., Iranian government will say that USA government promised to NK to give them blah blah and now they are in war.


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm

I think the gist is that you are saying that the NK-Iranian "alliance" will spark into a global war if the US takes on NK. This might happen, but it all depends on the US's response. If the response equates to throwing carriers and a lot of the US's arsenal (short of nukes) then Iran will probably stay back, as they can see the destruction caused. If the US is kinda wishy-washy with their force, like sending in just a few ships and using only the forces already stationed in the vicinity, then Iran may interpret this as the US not seriously taking the war seriously, and will "surprise attack" the US bases or its Middle-Eastern Allies, if not a combination of both.

Shawn April 11, 2013 at 12:45 am

F-15's are a proven aircraft & still rule the skies !!! Can you say 2 engines ? F-15 Eagle Keeper


USS ENTERPRISE April 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Finally. A F-15 fan. I felt so alone….


Restore Palestine April 12, 2013 at 12:54 am

I don't remember the F-15 ever winning a match against the Russian or Chinese flankers. It has lost a bunch of combat exercises to Flankers flown by Russia pilots, but not a freaking single win. That's called "rule the skies" in your book?

Where did you get your PhD in Clown Science?


Anonymous April 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Strange, I don't believe them because they don't have the health and safety of the pilots as a priority as they have proven throughout the entire F-22 ordeal.


Big-Dean April 5, 2013 at 11:30 pm

lost the faith I see ;-P


Josh April 7, 2013 at 10:41 am

Just leave.


Restore Palestine April 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Just die.


Matt April 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I agree.


Lance April 5, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Just wait for another incident on a F-22 and the restrictions are back. In order for the USAF to fix this they need a major overhaul of life support systems in the Raptor, not a band aid on a bullet wound approach.


VetsTeam April 7, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I Doubt, every tech has strong and weak points if they find any weakness in the system, they will fix it again and again and improve it with latest technology.

Eagles come back to the sky again.


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Hmph, yes F-15.


Nick April 13, 2013 at 6:22 pm

they need the planes out there now! not after 2014 sometime, when NK's northern ,uh,ally? has a fighter that can smush an F-15 without breathing hard! We need our best frontline fighters out there !


marc27 April 5, 2013 at 7:17 pm

great lets send 20 to south korea and see if the north is still willing to show force.


Chops April 5, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Plus 20 B52s & 20 B1Bs & 10 B2s—that ought to get them to chill out.


Defense Tech Fan April 5, 2013 at 11:28 pm

1 B2 could end the conflict in hours..


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Well, one ICBM could end the world in 90 minutes.


Jeff Scism April 12, 2013 at 4:02 pm

How about a Squadron (24) or a wing (48). Usually deployments are a wing at a time, unless its some low key deployment.


Dfens April 6, 2013 at 10:43 am

So if the F-22 is "operational" again, does this mean its pilots have gone back to being American heroes, or are they still "too stupid to fly the airplane"? It is so hard to keep up with the official Air Force position on this.


Ron April 7, 2013 at 12:17 am

It's "GO AHEAD MAKE MY DAY " time!!!


oblatt1 April 8, 2013 at 4:08 am

The surest sign there is no chance of war is to have the F-22 'Iron Chicken' in theater.


Tony C. April 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

The F-22A is where and how it was intended to be deployed in theater, not a small brush war like Libya. This is what the F-22A was designed to do and it will be a tremendous asset if war breaks out.


Jeff Scism April 10, 2013 at 6:42 am

Somebody decided that there is a need for more than TWO of them in Korea.


JJ Jones April 10, 2013 at 8:26 am

Um, no, this is not what the F-22A was intended for.
Go google the North Korean Air Force and see what they have in number and quality of aircraft. China on the other hand…..


Aimhigh April 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I hope they have corrected the problems for the sake of the pilots and so we don't lose one near Chinese waters while flying patrols off Korea


Restore Palestine April 9, 2013 at 1:15 am

I believe China already know that the F-22 is an expensive joke. China must have been disappointed when further production of the F-22 was cancelled. Fortunately another expensive joke, the F-35, is still on order. Now even minimally trained Palestinians can shoot down US fighters if US pilots dare to fly low.


USS ENTERPRISE April 11, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Hmmph yes. China, the country with NO OPERATIONAL stealth fighters, can take the F-22. Please. Get real.


Restore Palestine April 11, 2013 at 11:48 pm

BS ENTERPRISE mental, the F-22 is not operational. Any country can take on it. As I said, even the minimally trained Palestinians can shoot it down.

Oh I forgot, you can't read. Go back to school, boy.


Vitsing April 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm

Cancel the F-35 Program and restart the F-22 production line. In the end it will save my tax dollars! F-22s are desired by many of our Allies and Allied support for the F-35 are waning. Even our own Navy is questing the F-35 viability.

Is there a Stealthy A/F-18 in the making?


Achilles April 9, 2013 at 2:07 pm

If we cancel the F-35 Program we could delay being able to use the vertical takeoff and landing for maybe a year or two. The F-22 is one of the most expensive jets to make. Your tax dollars would go to that instead of Obama's golf trips with Tiger Woods.


blight_ April 9, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Both programs are expensive, and the -22 got cut off during mass production to reduce the bleeding: which simultaneously kills your return on investment.

Then again, I suspect LM hoped that the pain of killing programs by going after buy orders instead of R&D would serve as a deterrent, because rational players don't hurt their ROI after their sunken costs. But the government isn't a rational player.


Achilles April 10, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I would rather our tax payer dollars go to military stuff instead of Obama playing golf


Shawn April 11, 2013 at 12:47 am

Can you say 2 engines are better than 1 ? f-15 Eagle Keeper


Achilles April 11, 2013 at 2:26 pm

No I cant other than it provides better control for the jet and could become vital for evading a dogfight or missiles


Jeff Scism April 11, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Two engines also are a safe guard against engine failure, or destruction due to enemy action. Especially if the hydraulics are mirrored and redundant.
Two engines can be the difference between coming home and flying again, or dying.


JJ Jones April 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

Any idea how many police we could hire, homeless shelters we could build, jobs we could create, or how much we could increase teacher salaries and after school program funding with the cost of just one of these damn things?
I spent 24 years in the Air Force. Contractors have fleeced the goverment and taxpayers to death on a very expensive "not quite finished" project. It takes a lot of time an effort to get one of these things off the ground. Guess the Air Force wanted to prove pigs can fly.
The F-22….we spent so much money, we won't admit we were wrong.


Jeff Scism April 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

With the F-35 the military tried to please the budget people and put all of the design functions on a single hope, the F-35. They made it too complex, and too diverse. Instead of a cheaper product that can kick ass at a distance, they wanted a Swiss rmy knife, which although it has all these LITTLE gimmicks, does NOTHING well.

Keep it simple, Keep it efficient.


Restore Palestine April 12, 2013 at 12:47 am

Comparing the F-35 to the Swiss Army Knife is too much of a compliment to the F-35.

The Swiss Army Knife is a well-thought-out, well-designed, sturdy and handy compact utility. The F-35 is an ill-conceived, poorly-designed, sissy-delicate and less-than-useless air polluter.


Jeff Scism April 12, 2013 at 1:53 am

Opinions may differ. as a former survival instructor, I opine that the Swiss army knife as designed by Victorinox, is too much in one package to do anything well, and the design is very uncomfortable to use.

Its a case of too much complexity being included, trying to please a committee.

Sound like the subject at hand? One size fits all never does.


mahatchma April 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

Just in time for being grounded due to Sequester!


Achilles April 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Ha! The Sequester! There is supposed to be something like it that is going to knock out like thirty airports in the continental US and one of them my dad used to be the manager of the tower.


Jeff Scism April 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I was in the USAF Aircrew Life Support field, but am 20 years out of date, I got out in 1990. I am still in touch with many still in the field, and know that the field level workers were taking the problems seriously, but the Civilians in charge of the Dept Of Defense ignored the reports, telling the pilots to "Stop crying" and go fly.

I don't blame any pilot who refuses to fly unsafe equipment.


BILLY VINCENT April 12, 2013 at 10:47 am



balkdjfh April 12, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Thats the thing, is we are so much in debt that we cant keep both.


Jeff Scism April 12, 2013 at 2:55 pm

The first responsibility of Government is to Obey the Constitution, and OURS says if it isn't specifically empowered for the Government to do something, that thing is empowered to the States and the people to do. So if you want to CUT the debt, simply INSIST that the Government do only what is lawful. Its LONG past time to stop the government from overstepping its authority, and remind them that they work for US.

The second responsibility is to Protect and defend the Constitution, and yes, that means against all enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC. Our forefathers had foreseen that one of the greatest challenges would be to protect us from each other.

Power feeds corruption and corruption spreads like wildfire unless to take immediate steps to control it.

If our representatives are not working to serve constitutionally, then they are the Problem. They may have had years of entrenchment and "gerrymandering" to keep them there, but NEW PEOPLE in quantity are what we need.

There are no term limits for the entire Congress, but we in each state can push for them. It needs to be an organized, cohesive demand that term limits be applied, and enforced.

To reduce the debt you need to balance exports and imports. Right now its cash out and junk imports-in.


Josh April 5, 2013 at 6:20 pm

About 1.1 million active and 8.2 million reserve. And those reserve would most likely be used in a war.


STemplar April 5, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Not in some surprise attack, we'd see that coming.


STemplar April 5, 2013 at 11:07 pm

350,000 in the opening hours l've read.


So? April 5, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Most of the NK artillery positions are dialed in and will be suppressed by SK within minutes.


Big-Dean April 5, 2013 at 11:32 pm

ziv, since you seem to be in the know here, do you have any stats on our mobility situation. It might take us days or weeks to get troops and equipment over there. I'm sure that we'd start to be mobilization and sealift activities occurs weeks prior to the balloon popping.


Bill April 6, 2013 at 5:08 am

Curious as to if Seoul has an extensive bunker system under the city – Id be very surprised if they don't a huge underground city. Crazy neighbors just a few miles to the North, I'm sure they realized this was coming sooner or later.


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 3:16 pm



STemplar April 6, 2013 at 6:20 am

It's called a subway and basements. Read a piece about zoning that required basements in all construction and there is a subway system. Together there are places to hide if you can get to them.

Some analysis on what the norks have that can range Seoul. A little less than some reports. Who knows what the actual truth is, but even this lesser number could lob a quick alpha strike of several thousand rounds at Seoul.


ziv April 6, 2013 at 8:25 am

BD, the crux of the matter is it would take at least 10 days to increase the 2 brigades of the 2nd Inf Div we have there to around 6 brigades by bringing in the 24th Div from Hawaii and also bringing in the two pre-deployed brigades of equipment that is sitting in the Indian Ocean. Then the Fast Supply Ships (T-AKR's) are supposed to be able to get a heavy armored division there within 20-25 days but that seems very unlikely since they are all on the east coast or in the Gulf of Mexico.
Basically it is the ROK's and 2 brigades of the 2nd Inf against the NORK's for nearly 2 weeks. If Seoul were 50 miles from the DMZ it would be a bloody but straightforward win for the ROK's. But the north end of Seoul is just 15 miles from the DMZ and the Han River is between most of Seoul's citizens and their escape route to the south. There are underground shopping malls that are supposed to be shelter in place refuges, but I wonder how many there are and how many South Koreans will be willing to stay and not try to get the heck out of Dodge.


STemplar April 7, 2013 at 2:45 am

The original OP plan in the mid 80s laid out how the USN and USAF would destroy the nork air force in 100 hours. One would presume that will happen far more quickly today. The SKs are going to do the lion's share of the fighting on the ground. The primary role of US forces in the opening days will be the same as in the Korean War, US air power will be used in force to hammer nork forces, their transportation infrastructure and command and control..


Josh April 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

It wouldn't be a surprise attack if we saw them coming.


citanon April 6, 2013 at 5:44 pm

If I were SK I'd seriously ask the US to consider deploying tactical nukes on the DMZ immediately on commencement of hostilities.

Not sure how much good that would do any good though, over conventional attack. Also, there's the radiation fall out pattern…..

A real tough problem.


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Friendly fire?


blight_ April 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm

CBU's are cluster bombs.

The DMZ already has plenty of land mines, and needs no more.


blight_ April 8, 2013 at 11:47 am

TLAM-D is the submunition-Dispenser.


Recce1 April 10, 2013 at 12:55 am

Why do you think we fly 2 B-2s to S. Korea? Remember, it's nuclear capable.


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm

What he means is that they can't use the 8.2 Million of reserves in a surprise attack. "Surprise Attack". Yeah, I don't know about that. I am sure that every citizen of NK will know that the "great leader" has ordered the start of a "peaceful reunification" of the Korean peninsula. US and SK tech can intercept broadcasts like this.


blight_ April 7, 2013 at 9:06 pm

Guessing the Norks have tubes but not necessarily a lot of ammo. They'll probably use it and lose it.


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Well, "commencement of hostilities" started way back in the '50s. And a nuke, as you pointed out, would be problematic. So really, the US can only station some bombers, and otherwise has everything it can do to help out SK. Only time will tell if it is enough.


USS ENTERPRISE April 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Yeah, the NK supply train will just be a truck, really. I doubt it can support a full scale invasion; it can't feed its own people.


Vetsteam April 8, 2013 at 11:15 am

Lets hope war don't breakout


Restore Palestine April 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

BS ENTERPRISE, you are such a tireless pro-US and pro-BS BSer. I hope you will be the first one to win the Nobel BS prize and Nobel Pees prize.


blight_ April 10, 2013 at 9:44 am

Most of the RCS gains from stealthy aircraft come from shaping instead of the RAM. The RAM is maintenance intensive.

At the end of the day, all future aircraft will be designed to have RCS reduction as an variable in shaping, alongside aerodynamics. And short of trying to reskin aircraft to reshape them, there isn't a whole lot that can be done for the legacy aircraft in terms of RCS.


Achilles April 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm

I am not saying to save our tax dollars, but I am saying to use it for something useful like for our military or technology and research. Not stupid trips to go golfing or vacations. Maybe Obama can actually use our money for reinforcing our Navy. It is one of our best branches if not the best. The biggest mistake is getting rid of Air Craft Carriers. We have maybe one that is fully functional. I am glad we finally got done with the Laser Weapons System and it actually works. I am not bagging on the Air Force, it is a great branch and I never said anything about anything being bad, it is just we need to invest in stronger technologies. The F-15 is an amazing jet so is the A-10. We had the most powerful Navy in the world and we have sort of diminushed from that. My point is, we as the US need to use the tax dollars for military funding, for weapons research and bring back old things like the F-22 and still keep the F-35, A-10 warthog, and the F-15.


blight_ April 10, 2013 at 10:41 am

And MOAB, if need be.


Jeff Scism April 10, 2013 at 11:16 am

Reshaping an aircraft's skin isn't an effective method to achieve stealth, Radar cross-sections are more than skin deep. The skin has a great deal to do with general reflectivity, but INTERNAL structures ( like turbine blades) can also paint for radar. Much of the RCS can be reduced by redirecting the radio energy in a different direction, or by absorbing it. What stealth engineering will do and is probably already doing, is drive the technology of detection away from straight radar to other means.Light reflectance, sound, infra-red, and different types of radars can all detect portions of "something" being at a location. Computers can analyze these inputs and "decide" that something is really there or not. Things like Doppler radar can "see" air movements and detect a turbulance signature.


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