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Entries in F-22 Raptor (7)

Friday
Nov162012

Air Force: F-22 Raptor Crash Not Likely Related to Oxygen Problems

Stocktrek Images/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Air Force is investigating the cause of an F-22 Raptor crash near an air base in Florida.  However, an Air Force official told ABC News it was likely not related to mysterious and potentially deadly oxygen problems that plagued the $420 million-a-pop war planes for years -- problems the Air Force believes it has already solved.

The Air Force announced Thursday afternoon that an F-22 pilot had managed to bail out of his $420 million fighter jet before the crash near Tyndall Air Force Base.  The Air Force official told ABC News the pilot is in “good shape” and has been speaking with investigators about the crash.

“Initial indications are, from talking to the pilot and from analyzing initial evidence… [that] it doesn’t look like it was related to any physiological problems,” the official said.

He said the pilot did not report any physiological problems and the crash didn’t seem to be related to “any of the life support system issues,” emphasizing that the Air Force will not know for sure what caused the crash until a full investigation has been completed.

The F-22 jet, America’s single most expensive fighter at around $420 million apiece, was the subject of a year-long ABC News investigation that looked into why several of the advanced jets’ pilots were experiencing symptoms of oxygen deprivation in mid-air -- experiences the Air Force often referred to as physiological incidents.  

While the experience was relatively rare -- the Air Force reported more than a couple dozen since 2008 -- they were bad enough that the Air Force grounded the entire fleet of planes for five months last year to investigate, and then placed strong safety restrictions on the planes when they put them back in the air.  The Air Force has since announced that it believes it has solved the problem.

The ABC News investigation also examined the death of Capt. Jeff Haney, an F-22 pilot who died a minute after a malfunction in his plane cut off his oxygen.  Despite the malfunction, the Air Force blamed Haney for the crash.  

In the course of the investigation, ABC News obtained an Air Force test document that showed the service had been warned of a potentially deadly flaw in the F-22 oxygen system design a decade before it played a direct role in Haney’s death.

Thursday’s crash occurred the same day the Air Force reportedly released the results of their investigation into another F-22 crash at Tyndall.  The pilot in that crash, which occurred in May, was able to bail out and save himself as well.  In its report, the Air Force blamed the May crash on pilot error, according to a report by the Air Force Times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul302012

Report: F-22 Fighter Loses $79 Billion Advantage in Dogfights

U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States has spent nearly $80 billion to develop the most advanced stealth fighter jet in history, the F-22 Raptor, but the Air Force recently found out firsthand that while the planes own the skies at modern long-range air combat, it is “evenly matched” with cheaper, foreign jets when it comes to old-school dogfighting.

The F-22 made its debut at the international Red Flag Alaska training exercise this June where the planes, “cleared the skies of simulated enemy forces and provided security for Australian, German, Japanese, Polish and [NATO] aircraft,” according to an after-action public report by the Air Force. The F-22 took part in the exercise while under strict flying restrictions imposed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in light of mysterious, potentially deadly oxygen problems with the planes -- problems that the Pentagon believes it has since solved.

The Air Force said the planes flew 80 missions during the event, “with a very high mission success rate.” However, a new report from Combat Aircraft Monthly revealed that in a handful of missions designed to test the F-22 in a very specific situation -- close-range, one-on-one combat -- the jet appeared to lose its pricey advantages over a friendly rival, the Eurofighter Typhoon, flown in this case by German airmen.

“We expected to perform less with the Eurofighter but we didn’t,” German air officer Marc Grune said, according to Combat Aircraft Monthly. “We were evenly matched. They didn’t expect us to turn so aggressively.”

Two other German officers, Col. Andreas Pfeiffer and Maj. Marco Gumbrecht, noted in the same report that the F-22′s capabilities are “overwhelming” when it comes to modern, long-range combat as the stealth fighter is designed to engage multiple enemies well-beyond the pilot’s natural field of vision -- mostly while the F-22 is still out of the other plane’s range. Grumbrecht said that even if his planes did everything right, they weren’t able to get within 20 miles of the next-generation jets before being targeted.

“But as soon as you get to the merge…” Pfeiffer said, referring to the point at which fighters engage in close-up dogfighting, “in that area, at least, the Typhoon doesn’t necessarily have to fear the F-22 in all aspects… In the dogfight the Eurofighter is at least as capable as the F-22, with advantages in some aspects.”

In response to the report, a spokesperson for the Air Force, Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, told ABC News that one-on-one combat is only one way to evaluate an aircraft’s capabilities and said it’s not, “necessarily the most relevant to every scenario.”

“The F-22 is conceived and employed as part of an integrated force that provides offensive capabilities that make close engagements far less likely while retaining the ability to handle close engagements in tandem with other fighters,” he said.

Air Force Gen. John Jumper, one of the few airmen to have flown both aircraft before he retired in 2005, said that year that it is difficult to compare the F-22 and the Eurofighter.

“They are different kinds of airplanes to start with,” he said, according to an Air Force Print News report. “It’s like asking us to compare a NASCAR car with a Formula 1 car. They are both exciting in different ways, but they are designed for different levels of performance.”

The F-22, “can maneuver with the best of them if it has to, but what you want to be able to do is get into contested airspace no matter where it is,” Jumper said, referring to the F-22′s stealth and supercruise capabilities that are meant to allow the plane to sneak in to hostile territory undetected -- an ability the non-stealth Eurofighter lacks.

As for where that contested airspace may be, the Air Force hasn’t said. But in April 2011 an executive for Lockheed Martin, the primary manufacturer of the F-22, told ABC News that the plane could “absolutely” find a home in quick strike missions against countries like Iran or North Korea. Over the weekend, the Air Force deployed a squadron of F-22s to Kadena Air Base in southern Japan just over 800 miles south of the North Korean border -- a move that comes three months after an undisclosed number of the stealth jets were deployed to an allied base in the United Arab Emirates, some 200 miles from the Iranian mainland.

The F-22 is the single most expensive fighter jet in history at a total acquisition cost of an estimated $79 billion for 187 planes, meaning each plane costs approximately $420 million. Estimates for the Eurofighter Typhoon -- the premier fighter for several allied countries including the U.K., Germany and Italy -- put that plane at just under $200 million each, according to an April 2011 report by England’s Public Accounts Committee.

“[Red Flag was] a mission to get to know each other, the first contact by German Eurofighters in the continental U.S.,” Grune said of mock-fighting the F-22s. “We are not planning on facing each other in combat. We want to work together, but it was a starter for us to work together. They were impressed, as we were impressed by them.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul252012

Pentagon 'Confident' Mystery F-22 Fighter Problem Solved

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kasey Close(WASHINGTON) -- The military believes it has found the source of the potentially deadly oxygen problem that has plagued America's most expensive fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, for years, Pentagon spokesperson George Little said on Tuesday.

"I think we have very high confidence that we've identified the issues," Little told reporters, before announcing a long-term plan to lift strict flight restrictions imposed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on the $79 billion fleet in May.  "This is a very prudent way to ensure that we, in a very careful manner, resume normal flight operations."

The mystery problem with the F-22 Raptor was the subject of an ABC News Nightline investigation, which found that since 2008, F-22 pilots have experienced unexplained symptoms of oxygen deprivation -- including confusion, sluggishness and disorientation -- while at the controls of the $420 million-a-pop jets on more than two dozen occasions.  In one instance, a pilot became so disoriented that his plane skimmed treetops before he was able to pull up and save himself.

The Air Force subjected the F-22 to intense scrutiny for years, including a nearly five-month fleet-wide grounding last year, but was unable to solve the problem.  When the grounding was lifted, the service awarded the plane's manufacturer, defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, a nearly $25 million contract in part to help identify the problem, but still no answer was found.

The source of the issue, the Pentagon now says, is believed to be a faulty valve in the high-pressure vest that is worn by the pilots at extreme altitudes -- one that Air Force officials believe is constricting the pilots' ability to breathe.

"To correct the supply issue and reduce the incidence of hypoxia-like events, the Air Force has made two changes to the aircraft's cockpit life support system," Little said.  "First, the Air Force will replace a valve in the upper pressure garment vest worn by pilots during high-altitude missions.  The valve was causing the vest to inflate and remain inflated under conditions where it was not designed to do so, thereby causing breathing problems for some pilots... Second, the Air Force has increased the volume of air flowing to pilots by removing a filter that was installed to determine whether there were any contaminants present in the oxygen system.  Oxygen contamination was ruled out."

The Air Force first ordered its pilots to stop wearing the vests last month, but Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. Tadd Scholtis told ABC News at the time that while the vests were believed to have contributed to the problem, they were "not believed to be the root cause of the prior incidents."

When asked by a reporter if the new solution could also account for the at least five instances in which the Air Force said ground crews working on the F-22s experienced their own hypoxia-like symptoms, Little said he "did not have specifics" on those incidents.

Still, Gen. Charles Lyon, the head of the team investigating the F-22 problem, made his case in the Pentagon against the so-called G-suit and its valve over the past few days, an Air Force official told ABC News, and Little said that on Friday Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and other top Air Force officials presented the Air Force analysis to Panetta.

"After receiving assurances that these corrective measures would minimize hypoxia-like events in the F-22, the secretary approved the Air Force planned sequence of actions to remove flight restrictions over time," Little said.

The process started on Tuesday, he said, with an order from the Air Force for a squadron of F-22s to be deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan.  The planes will fly there at altitudes that will not require pilots to wear the vests.

The Air Force is still in the process of installing an automatic emergency back-up oxygen system to the planes but that process is not expected to be completed until next spring.

Despite costing an estimated $79 billion, no jet in the entire F-22 fleet -- some 185 planes -- has ever seen combat.  From Iraq to Afghanistan to the no-fly zone over Libya, the Air Force said the planes simply weren't necessary.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun132012

F-22 Fighter Pilots Told to Ditch Pressure Vests; Mystery Problem Unsolved

U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kasey Close(WASHINGTON) -- Pilots for the U.S. Air Force’s F-22 Raptor fighter jets have been ordered to take off a portion of their flying suits, specifically the G-suit vest, during routine training missions as the service continues to investigate a rare but mysterious breathing problem some pilots have experienced in the $420 million-a-pop jets.

As a recent ABC News investigation found, in at least 25 cases since 2008 F-22 pilots have reported experiencing symptoms of oxygen deprivation in mid-flight. In one case, a pilot became so disoriented that his plane actually skimmed the tops of trees before he managed to save himself. Another pilot, Capt. Jeff Haney, was killed in a crash after an unexplained malfunction cut off his oxygen supply during a training mission in November 2010.

Despite grounding the whole $79 billion fleet of jets for five months last year, the Air Force has been unable to discover the source of the problem.

Air Force spokesperson Tadd Scholtis told ABC News Wednesday that the G-suit vest, designed to help pilots’ bodies cope with extreme G-forces during maneuvers, “appears to be contributing to breathing difficulties” for pilots, but is not believed to be the root cause of the prior incidents. It is being removed, he said, because of some “vulnerability and reliability issues.”

Last month Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered new flight restrictions for the F-22 while the breathing problem remains under investigation, but the Air Force has claimed those orders have not curbed the planes’ operations. Panetta also ordered the Air Force to expedite the installation of an automatic emergency backup system, a safety measure that Haney’s family told ABC News would have saved his life.

The F-22 Raptor, which is made by defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin, officially went combat operational in December 2005 but has yet to see an actual combat mission. From Iraq and Afghanistan to last year’s U.S.-led no-fly zone over Libya, the Air Force said it simply has not needed the advanced capabilities of the most expensive jet fighter in history.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May152012

Panetta Demands F-22 Raptor Fighter Fixes After Mid-Air Scares

U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Kasey Close(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demanded the Air Force take measures to make America's most expensive fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, safer for its pilots in light of an ongoing, potentially deadly problem with the plane's oxygen system, a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.

As a recent ABC News investigation found, for more than four years pilots for the F-22 Raptor have reported at least 25 incidents of experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms" while at the controls of the $420 million-plus-a-pop jet. Hypoxia is caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain and is characterized by dizziness, confusion and disorientation.

Among other precautions, Panetta ordered the Air Force to expedite the installation of an automatic emergency back-up oxygen system to the planes, spokesperson George Little told reporters.

Currently, pilots who believe they're experiencing oxygen system problems have to manually reach for a ring in a cramped corner of the cockpit to activate the emergency back-up system. The activation ring itself was already such a problem that the Air Force recently re-designed it for the entire fleet to make it more accessible.

In one fatal incident in November 2010, the Air Force said one of its pilots, Capt. Jeff Haney, had been too distracted by trying to activate the manual back-up system after a malfunction cut off his primary oxygen completely and he accidentally flew his plane into the ground.

One of two pilots who recently spoke out about the F-22's dangerous problems on CBS News' 60 Minutes said that he once experienced such disorientation due to apparent hypoxia in mid-air that he struggled to even locate the manual emergency oxygen system.

Panetta also ordered flight restrictions on the F-22 "effective immediately" that require it to stay relatively close to possible landing strips in case of emergency. In Alaska, the F-22 will no longer fly long-distance training missions, and instead those missions will be taken on by older F-15 and F-16 fighters, Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. John Dorrian said. Panetta also directed the Air Force to provide him regular updates on the progress in the investigation into the planes' problems.

Despite multiple investigations into the plane's oxygen system and a grounding of the entire $79 billion fleet for nearly five months last year, the Air Force has been unable to determine the source of the problem.

The Air Force admitted earlier this month that it was such a concern that a "very small number" of pilots requested not to fly or to leave the F-22 program altogether.

The Air Force has long maintained that the rate of incidents is exceedingly rare -- 25 compared to the thousands of missions flown without incident -- and has been working hard to determine what is wrong.

The Air Force said in March it planned to implement an automatic emergency back-up oxygen system as one of 14 recommendations made by a scientific advisory board convened to investigate -- ultimately unsuccessfully -- the root cause of the hypoxia-like symptoms. Pentagon spokesperson Capt. John Kirby said the Secretary knows the Air Force is working hard, but wanted to "add his muscle" to help find answers.

Despite multiple forward deployments, none of the jets in the $79 billion fleet have ever flown a combat operation for the United States since going combat-ready in late 2005.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May062011

$77 Billion Jets, Never Seen Combat, Now Grounded Indefinitely

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Air Force fleet of stealth F-22 Raptor fighter jets, which has never seen combat despite costing the U.S. government nearly $80 billion, has now been grounded indefinitely.

The order came down from the Air Force's Air Combat Command Tuesday due to "recent reports of potential oxygen system malfunctions," Air Combat Command Captain Jennifer Ferrau told ABC News.

"The stand-down provides Air Force officials the opportunity to investigate the reports and ensure crews are able to safely accomplish their missions," Ferrau said.

The grounding comes just days after a rare video surfaced featuring a flight by one of the F-22s closest potential air rivals, the Chinese J-20 stealth fighter.

But for U.S. forces in each of America's three current major combat operations, having the F-22s sitting on the sidelines may not make much of a difference -- other than training and patrol operations, that's where they've been since the first of the expensive planes went combat ready in December 2005.

When the U.S. led an international effort to secure a no-fly zone over Libya in March, the Raptors did not participate. The Air Force said the planes simply weren't necessary to take out Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses.

"If this was a requirement, it would've been used," Air Force spokesperson Maj. Chad Steffey told ABC News then. "We had all the assets that we needed in Europe already... It simply wasn't an operational requirement."

In fact, though the Air Force has more than 160 F-22s, Steffey said that they have not been an "operational requirement" in any major theater of combat for the U.S., from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Not a single one of the planes -- which cost U.S. government $77.4 billion for a total of 187 planes from Lockheed Martin according to recent report by the Government Accountability Office -- has used what Lockheed Martin's website called a "revolutionary leap in lethality" in defense of U.S. interests.

In 2009, Congress cut all funding for new Raptors, stopping the orders at 187 operational planes -- the last of which are still being delivered -- compared to the more than 600 that were originally part of the deal. However, Lockheed Martin is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to make upgrades to existing planes.

The closest an F-22 has come to combat was in 2007 when a pair of Raptors intercepted and monitored two Russian bombers that were on patrol in airspace near Alaska, according to a report by Air Force Magazine.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the planes have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed to dominate the air against rival, sophisticated air forces or air defenses, not a small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said as of now does not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Dozens of supporters of the F-22 program in the House and the Senate wrote letters to President Obama ahead of the 2009 budget decision, arguing a full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like China and Russia that are also developing fifth generation fighters and new, high-tech air defense systems. Gates dismissed these claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters, both the F-22 and the newer F-35, would greatly outnumber any adversaries for the next 15 years at least.

Jeff Babione, the vice president and project manager for the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin, told ABC News last month China and Russia's fighter programs were a consideration in the F-22's development, but also said the F-22 could find a home in strike missions against rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

"[The F-22s] are in an area where they would be solely or more suited for a sophisticated adversary like North Korea," Babione told ABC News. "In particular, its ability to penetrate highly defended locations -- such as North Korea -- only the Raptor would be able to get in there and prosecute the missions."

In the meantime, Babione said the F-22 was "absolutely" a prudent investment for its value as a deterrent to potential foes and said he hopes the Raptors never do go to war.

"The best weapon is the one that's never used," he said.

News of the stand-down order for the F-22s was first reported by the aviation website FlightGlobal.com.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr082011

The $77 Billion Fighter Jets That Have Never Gone to War

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker(WASHINGTON) -- More than five years and nearly $80 billion after the world's most expensive fighter jets joined the U.S. military fleet, the high-tech F-22 Raptor has yet to see combat -- despite the U.S. Air Forces' involvement in three simultaneous major combat operations.

When the U.S. led an international effort to secure a no-fly zone over Libya last month, the F-22, the jet the Air Force said "cannot be matched," was not involved. The Air Force said the $143 million-a-pop planes simply weren't necessary to take out Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses.

"If this was a requirement, it would've been used," Air Force spokesperson Maj. Chad Steffey told ABC News. "We had all the assets that we needed in Europe already... It simply wasn't an operational requirement."

In fact, though the Air Force has more than 160 F-22s, Steffey said that they have not been an "operational requirement" in any major theater of combat for the U.S., from Iraq to Afghanistan, since the first of the planes went combat ready in December 2005.

Not a single one of the planes -- which cost U.S. government $77.4 billion for a total of 187 planes from Lockheed Martin according to recent report by the Government Accountability Office -- has used what Lockheed Martin's website called a "revolutionary leap in lethality" in defense of U.S. interests. And though Congress cut all funding for new Raptors in 2009, Lockheed Martin is still receiving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to make upgrades.

The closest an F-22 has come to combat was in 2007 when a pair of Raptors intercepted and monitored two Russian bombers that were on patrol in airspace near Alaska, according to a report by Air Force Magazine.

Both the Air Force and Lockheed Martin said the reason the planes have yet to fire on any enemies is because they're designed to dominate the air against rival, sophisticated air forces or air defenses, not a small, poorly armed third-world militaries and insurgent groups.

The planes' natural enemy, therefore, is one that the program's biggest critic, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said as of now does not exist.

"The F-22 is clearly a capability we do need -- a niche, silver-bullet solution for one or two potential scenarios -- specifically the defeat of a highly advanced enemy fighter fleet," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2009 while advocating that Congress ditch further funding for the Raptor from the budget. "[But] the F-22, to be blunt, does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict."

Dozens of supporters of the F-22 program in the House and the Senate wrote letters to President Obama ahead of the 2009 budget decision, arguing a full force of F-22s would be needed to meet the future challenge of other nations like China and Russia that are also developing fifth generation fighters and new, high-tech air defense systems. Gates dismissed these claims and said the U.S. next generation fighters, both the F-22 and the newer F-35, would greatly outnumber any adversaries for the next 15 years at least.

Jeff Babione, the vice president and project manager for the F-22 program at Lockheed Martin, said China and Russia's fighter programs were a consideration in the F-22's development, but also said the F-22 could find a home in strike missions against rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

"[The F-22s] are in an area where they would be solely or more suited for a sophisticated adversary like North Korea," Babione told ABC News. "In particular, its ability to penetrate highly defended locations -- such as North Korea -- only the Raptor would be able to get in there and prosecute the missions."

Another reason Gates argued against continuing the F-22 fighter is that he said he wanted to put some of that money into the newer F-35 jet fighter. That plane, which is also in development by Lockheed Martin, "will be the backbone of America's tactical aviation fleet for decades to come if -- and this is a big if -- money is not drained away to spend on other aircraft that our military leadership considers of lower priority or excess to our needs," Gates said in 2009.

"The F-35 is 10 to 15 years newer than the F-22, carries a much larger suite of weapons, and is superior in a number of areas – most importantly, air-to-ground missions such as destroying sophisticated enemy air defenses," he said.

The F-35, at a smaller price tag per plane than the F-22, is designed to replace the F-16 -- which incidentally was involved in operations in Libya -- and "will complement the F-22," according to Lockheed Martin and the GAO report. According to Lockheed, the F-35 is better suited for current combat operations since it has a superior air-to-surface attack capability, but can work in tandem with the F-22.

While the F-35 has experienced its own serious development issues, the first planes are scheduled to be delivered to the Air Force this spring, Lockheed told ABC News earlier this year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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