F22 Subject To Grounding Due To Issues of Pilots Experiencing Hypoxia For Unknown Reasons
F-22 Raptor is an Air Superiority Stealth Strike Fighter and the worlds best Air to Air fighter…Lockheed Martin claims that the Raptor’s combination of stealth, speed, agility, precision and situational awareness, combined with air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities, makes it the best overall fighter in the world today. Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, Chief of the Australian Defence Force, said in 2004 that the “F-22 will be the most outstanding fighter plane ever built.”
The F-22 is highly maneuverable, at both supersonic and subsonic speeds. It is extremely departure-resistant enabling it to remain controllable at extreme pilot inputs. The Raptor’s thrust vectoring nozzles allow the aircraft to turn tightly, and perform extremely high alpha (angle of attack) maneuvers such as the Herbst maneuver (or J-turn), Pugachev’s Cobra,and the Kulbit, though the J-Turn is more useful in combat.The F-22 is also capable of maintaining a constant angle of attack of over 60°, yet still having some control of roll.During June 2006 exercises in Alaska, F-22 pilots demonstrated that cruise altitude has a significant effect on combat performance, and routinely attributed their altitude advantage as a major factor in achieving an unblemished kill ratio against other US fighters and 4th/4.5th generation fighters.
The Lockheed Martin F-22 is the Air Force’s premier, twin-engine, stealthy fighter. It cost more than $200 million per copy to produce, including R&D. It entered service in 2005, and the 188th and final unit was delivered on May 2.
Some pilots refuse to fly F-22 Raptor amid jet’s oxygen problems
Air Force pilots have complained of hypoxia-like symptoms while flying the F-22, the world’s most expensive fighter jet. Refusal to fly can bring a reprimand and even discharge from the Air Force.
Moreover, there remains a dispute as to how many hypoxia incidents have been documented to date. But Col. Kevin Robbins, commander of the First Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia claims there have been eleven.
In a news statement this week, Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, who had been leading the investigation, claims the problem has been isolated. He contends the culprit is the vest. He claims that pilots not wearing the vest have not experienced hypoxia. But Defense Secretary Panetta tells news that there have been two cases in which pilots not wearing the vest still suffered hypoxia.
F-22 hypoxia might have been caused by an inflatable vest worn by pilots to prevent damage to their lungs, according to CBS News. The F-22 Raptor is considered by many to be America’s most advanced fighter plane, with each plane costing roughly $143 million to manufacture. When you’re shelling out that much money for a single jet, the last thing you want is to hear that your pilots are having trouble keeping their oxygen levels under control.
That’s precisely what was happening to those who were flying the F-22, much to the dismay of military officials who were attempting to justify the cost of their plane to the powers that be. Despite several investigations into the matter, authorities could not identify the source of the problem, which, ultimately, caused the F-22 to be grounded until these issues could be solved. The fighter, for all intents and purposes, was out of commission.
“The vest was inflating every time you pull G’s in the aircraft and then staying inflated which was making it more difficult to take air,” Col. Robbins explained. He added, “No one has gotten to the point where they’re completely, where they’re delirious. They’re still able to function, still able to bring the aircraft back safely.”
Of course, two instances of oxygen depravation were recorded during a few test flights following the removal of the vest, though General Lyons seems to think this was a result of some unrelated mechanical issues. Until all of these issues are hammered out, the expensive F-22 Raptor may spend more time on the ground than in the air.
Here is an audio of a hypoxia experience:
Fresh on the heels of yesterday’s announcement by the Air Force that it thinks the hypoxia-like symptoms suffered by F-22 Raptor pilots may be caused by the jets high-altitude performance, reports are emerging that ground crew are also suffering from similar ailments when they stand near the jet while it’s engines are running. Interesting.
At least five ground maintainers complained of illness between September and December, Air Combat Command spokesman Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis said in an Air Force Times article that hit the newsstands Monday. The maintainers grew sick after breathing in ambient air during ground engine runs, a congressional aide told Air Force Times.
Just yesterday, one of the Air Force’s top acquisitions officials, Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger told Senators that the service suspects that the F-22’s On-Board Oxygen Generating Systems (OBOGS) are either feeding the pilots contaminated air or aren’t giving them enough air to breath. She added that the problem may be related to the extreme altitudes that Raptors routinely execute high-G maneuvers in. Needless to say, this latest news puts an interesting twist on that claim.
Apparently, F-22 ground crew have been issued canisters designed to take air samples whenever they feel the onset of hypoxia.
That’s right, someone recorded an F-22 Raptor pilot using the callsign Rocket 04 declaring an emergency after suffering hypocia-like symptoms while flying in the famous Red Flag combat excercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada earlier this year.
Listen to the tape to hear Rocket 04 report his situation and request an immediate descent to 18,000 feet so that he can breather easier and asses his situation. Rocket 04 left the battlespace and was escorted home by another F-22, Rocket 03.
As David Cenciotti points out, this pilot was likely from the 27th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the Langley AFB-based 1st Fighter Wing, the same wing that those Air Guard pilots who refused the Raptor belong to. Those Virginia guardsmen refused to fly the jet due to concerns about Raptor pilots suffering from hypoxia-like symptoms with alarming frequency.
Some of the nation’s top aviators are refusing to fly the radar-evading F-22 Raptor, a fighter jet with ongoing problems with the oxygen systems that have plagued the fleet for four years.
At the risk of significant reprimand — or even discharge from the Air Force — fighter pilots are turning down the opportunity to climb into the cockpit of the F-22, the world’s most expensive fighter jet.
Service officials remain frustrated, that a “smoking gun” for the cause is still elusive despite an extraordinary effort to enlist scientists, the medical profession and fighter experts in a quest for answers.
The problem came to light after a November 2010 crash that claimed the life of a pilot. The fleet was grounded for four months last year as officials scrambled to find a cause; flights resumed in September. Since then, Air Combat Command (ACC) officials say there have been 11 hypoxic events. The unknown nature of the incidents has rattled the service. “There is no startling similarity [in the incidents] other than . . . hypoxic-like indications,” says Gen. Mike Hostage, ACC commander.
The extreme capabilities of the F-22 test the physical and mental stamina of pilots. It is the only fighter capable of sustained supercruise at Mach 1.5 without using afterburner and it can operate for long periods at 60,000 ft. Pilots also are exposed to extreme forces owing to the aircraft’s ability to accelerate quickly, decelerate and execute intense maneuvers using thrust-vectored propulsion.
Initially, the study targeted the aircraft, says Lyon. Now the team is looking into the physiological-support equipment and exploring whether there are commonalities in the flight profiles—various altitudes and maneuvers—that could be common in the incidents. The majority have occurred at the end of a flight, Lyon says, prompting officials to wonder if there is a cumulative effect of some factors on the pilots.