F-22s Finally Fit to Fly

Two years after suffocation crisis, stealth jets get back-up oxygen generators

F-22s Finally Fit to Fly F-22s Finally Fit to Fly
F-22s Finally Fit to Fly Two years after suffocation crisis, stealth jets get back-up oxygen generators More than 24 months since the last suffocation... F-22s Finally Fit to Fly

F-22s Finally Fit to Fly

Two years after suffocation crisis, stealth jets get back-up oxygen generators

More than 24 months since the last suffocation incident, the U.S. Air Force in finally equipping its F-22 stealth fighters with new back-up oxygen systems.

For years, F-22 pilots complained of shortness of breath and black-outs possibly related to the radar-evading jet’s high- and fast-flying abilities and its complex equipment.

Early last year, the Air Force said it would give all 180 or so F-22s an additional oxygen generator as a safeguard. Lockheed Martin, which manufactured the speedy fighter, scored a $30-million series of contracts to install the extra breathing gear, Defense News reported.

The roughly 40 F-22s belonging to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska have already received the new system. The rest of the fleet will get the oxygen generators by mid-2015.

Being automatic, the new system doesn’t require pilot intervention, making it a big improvement over the previous back-up oxygen, which had to be activated by hand. That was quite difficult, if not impossible, if the pilot was already experiencing oxygen deprivation.

Pilots dizziness was so severe in 2011 that the Air Force initially grounded the F-22s, and then, after lifting the flight ban, restricted flights to areas near suitable airfields—so that pilots could land quickly if their primary oxygen generators failed.

In May 2012, two F-22 pilots from the 1st Fighter Wing in Virginia appeared on 60 Minutes to explain why they were “uncomfortable” flying the stealth jet.

The new backup oxygen isn’t the only upgrade the F-22s are getting in 2015. The radar-evading fighters are slated to receive advanced electronic warfare protection and improved ability to locate ground threats. The F-22s should also gain the ability to carry AIM-120D and AIM-9X air-to-air missiles.

There was also a plan to integrate the Visionix Scorpion helmet-mounted sight, which would have made the F-22 even more compatible with high-off-boresight missiles like the AIM-9X. The sight installation got cancelled as part of automatic “sequestration” budget cuts.

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