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USAF Finally Spots the Loose Screw Causing the F-22 Oxygen Problems

Written by on Thursday, July 26th, 2012

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the line of F-22 fighters lately. We’ve known for more than a year that something in the F-22 was causing pilots to experience hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, but Air Force engineers have had a rough time trying to figure out the problem. The Pentagon grounded the entire fleet of F-22s in May of last year, and they’ve been on-again, off-again ever since.

It wasn’t until this week that the USAF finally found the culprit: a valve on a vest that is worn by pilots at high altitudes. Evidently, the valve was malfunctioning at extremely high altitudes, causing the vest to inflate and restrict breathing. That lack of air flow was causing dizziness, vertigo, and other symptoms that you absolutely don’t want a pilot of a $150 million fighter jet to ever experience.

The USAF has immediately addressed the problem by creating a plan to fix the valve and remove a diagnostic filter, which should further improve airflow and leave pilots feeling healthy. While it might be daunting to think that a tiny valve threatened the entire F-22 fleet, which originally had a program cost of $66.7bn, Air Force General Norman Schwarz shrugged it off — with such a complicated machine, you’re bound to have one or two glitchy parts. He said that, “The notion of perfection at the outset, even with all the computer order cialis online power we have and the CAD/CAM and all that stuff, you know,” is not realistic.

The news that the USAF has fixed the F-22 could not have come at a better time to soothe concerns for the international market. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta eased some of the flight restrictions on the F-22 last month, which allowed the US to deploy a squadron of F-22 Raptors to the Kadena Air Base in Japan. That should help restore some Japanese confidence in the efficacy of America’s current go-to fighter jet.

Japan agreed earlier this year to a $10bn purchase of 42 state-of-the-art F-35 fighters to add to its Air Self-Defense Force. That deal might receive criticism from Japanese citizens if a US-made fighter crashed into one of their air bases due to a technical malfunction.

It’s also worth mentioning that the 2010 crash of an F-22 deep in the wilderness of Alaska was unrelated to the oxygen problem. The USAF has ruled it as a pilot error, rather than a technical malfunction.

Talk about a mess. We can only hope that we’ll have more luck with the ongoing integration of the F-35 than we’ve had with the F-22 lately. If the F-35 has even half as many problems as the F-22 has been forced to endure, then we’re bound to have on our hands some frightened pilots, angry tax-payers, and nervous international buyers.

If you want advice about the world of military aviation, there’s no better people to turn to than men and women who have sat in the cockpit and flown some of the world’s most advanced aircraft. With over 50 current and ex-warfighters on call, Strike Fighter Consulting Inc. can give you access to up-to-date, first-hand technical and tactical expertise.

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