Tags: pentagon | oxygen | jet | fighters

Pentagon ID’s Oxygen Problem With $79 Billion Fighter Jet Fleet

Wednesday, 25 Jul 2012 12:22 PM

By Patrick Hobin

The Pentagon thinks it has figured out the cause of an oxygen deprivation glitch in a $79 billion fleet of fighter jets, ABC News reported.

F-22 pilots have experienced symptoms of oxygen deprivation such as confusion, sluggishness, and disorientation while piloting the jets on more than two dozen occasions, ABC News reported. The jets cost $420 million each.

"I think we have very high confidence that we've identified the issues," Pentagon spokesperson George Little said, according to ABC News. "This is a very prudent way to ensure that we, in a very careful manner, resume normal flight operations."

The Pentagon now has a plan to lift strict flight restrictions imposed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on the fleet in May.

The Air Force scrutinized the F-22 fleet for years but could not solve the problem. They even awarded defense contracting giant Lockheed Martin a nearly $25 million contract in part to help identify the problem, but still could not figure out the problem.

The Pentagon said the cause is likely a faulty valve in the high-pressure vest worn by the pilots at extreme altitudes 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, according to ABC News.

"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 F-22s will be deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan, Little told ABC News. No jet in the entire F-22 fleet of about 185 planes has ever seen combat, ABC News reported.

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