The Air Force is giving Lockheed Martin another $24 million to, among other things, figure out why the roughly 170 Raptor stealth fighters it built have apparently been asphyxiating their pilots.
On no fewer than 20 occasions since 2008, Raptor pilots have reported mid-air black-outs, disorientation and other symptoms of oxygen deprivation — a.k.a., “hypoxia” — possibly related to the stealth fighter’s On-Board Oxygen Generation System, built by Honeywell.
The Air Force grounded all of its F-22 Raptors between May and September, and half the fleet for four days last week, while it investigated the problem. “We didn’t find a definitive cause for the incidents prompting the decision, and that’s still the case,” Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, an Air Force spokesman, told Danger Room. A public report on the initial investigations is due in November.
You’d think after $65 billion spent on the F-22s — already the most expensive fighter ever built — Lockheed might throw in this investigation into the faulty On-Board Oxygen Generation System as a freebie. (A manned dogfighter isn’t much good if its pilot can’t breathe, after all.)
But that’s not the way the military-industrial complex rolls. The Air Force is giving Lockheed a $24 million contract to conduct a “hypoxia root-cause analysis” in addition to work on “titanium crack growth” and other engineering tasks, according to Defense News’ Dave Majumdar.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Raptor pilots are trying to relearn the flying and fighting skills they lost during the F-22’s stand-downs. “There’s a degradation of readiness associated with any significant cessation of training,” Sholtis explained. The Air Force said it is carefully monitoring the pilots for further signs of hypoxia.
Photo: Air Force