F-22 Modernization Plans Progress Despite Hypoxia Issue

 - June 1, 2012, 2:10 PM
The 195th and final F-22 Raptor for the U.S. Air Force was delivered from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, Ga., on May 2. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Now out of production, the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor is troubled by an unresolved problem thought to be tied to its onboard oxygen generation system (Obogs). Nevertheless, the U.S. Air Force recently deployed the stealthy fighter to Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE, and it plans to add new capabilities to the aircraft over the next decade.

In late April, the Air Force confirmed sending F-22s to “Southwest Asia” for what was described as a normal deployment to promote regional security. The deployment apparently sends a message to nearby Iran over its nuclear ambitions. Days later, on May 2, the Air Force took possession of the 195th and final F-22, delivered by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, Ga. The final aircraft joined the fleet of 187 operational F-22s. Eight other Raptors were used as test aircraft.

With production ended, the Air Force plans to add new capabilities to the Raptor. Testifying May 8 before a Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee, Lt. Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said the service’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request includes $512 million for research, development, test and evaluation of F-22 modernization and $333 million for procurement. Initial operational capability of an Increment 3, which will add synthetic aperture radar ground mapping, threat geolocation and Small Diameter Bomb carriage, is planned this year.

Increments 3.2A/B in 2014 and 2018 will add advanced electronic protection and combat identification, AIM-120D and AIM-9X missiles and “significantly improved ground threat geolocation.” According to the Government Accountability Office, the Air Force plans to spend $9.7 billion on F-22 modernization through 2023.

But the latest developments are clouded by unresolved incidents of hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, experienced by F-22 pilots, possibly rooted in the Obogs. A seven-month investigation by the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board failed to identify the cause, and the service continues to study the problem.

The Pentagon has added to earlier steps undertaken to protect against hypoxia with three new requirements. George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense, announced the latest steps during a May 15 briefing. The Air Force will expedite the installation of an automatic back-up oxygen system in all F-22s, retrofitting 10 aircraft per month beginning in January. Effective immediately, all F-22 flights “will remain within the proximity of potential landing locations” and long-duration flights in Alaska will be performed by other aircraft. Finally, the Air Force must report monthly to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta on its efforts to identify the cause of hypoxia incidents.

Comments

jon's picture

Why are we sooo damn stupid?
400 mil per copy and already needing to be updated?
Why? Because systems intergration that shoould have rolled out
With the first aircraft were defered to hide
Cost overruns. The mfg. Should be held accountable along with the airforce officers overseeing the program. But will there be accoiability? Guess!!

Raptor1's picture

22 Turkey: (emphasis) WE are not stupid at all, but your implication that somehow, nearly a decade after going into production, we should NOT upgrade the Raptor with the capabilities it should have had all along, clearly shows that maybe you don't even understand the $400Million per unit cost you quoted... so I'll explain.
The $400 Million cost is a figure thrown out there be those who wish to demonstrate the "expensiveness" of th Raptor, without regard to what that money truly includes and worse, without regard to the capabilities it provides. The $400Ml include all the research, development, and testing, plus the actual purchase, of a fighter which is faster, stealthier, more maneuverable, and far more lethal than any aircraft before or since. It includes the money spent developing never-before-seen technologies, which was SUPPOSED to help make the F-35 affodable... You wanna talk about a program which has learned nothing and delivered nothing, you're barking up the wrong tree.
EVERY aircraft requires upgrades - especially ones that are so complex that their avionics are 20+ years old by the time fullrate production began. Those are the facts... Every fighter inour arsenal, since the time we had an air force to speak of, has gone through this process.

Raptor1's picture

Trkey (cont'd): And yes, there is accountability... It's called a premature cancellation of the program at one-fourth the original planned porduction run. Essentially, the Raptor was held accountable for the fact that the F-35 needs ALOT more money to get it completed... Now, revisiting your $400 mil figure, how much do you think the F-35 per unit cost is?... $500Mil++, my friend... And instead of upgrades to a fantastic airframe/avionics package, for that half-billion $$$ you're getting a sub-par helmet, a fraction of its original weapons, limited stealth, no supercruise, maneuverability on the lines of an F-18, an airframe that's untested, and avionics with 12Million lines of code left to write/test. Upgrades will NO DOUBT be required by the time it's completed. But nonef this is a problem at all, if you subscribe to this Admin's reasoning that we should cancel an in-production monster like the Raptor, to pursue a real mess... the Raptor you shouldn't even discuss, unless you're gunna bring facts.

Raptor1's picture

Bottom line: WHEN a REAL Air Force rises to challenge us in the next 20 years, the Raptor will smash it, so aircraft like the F-35 can even perform their mission. And they will do it using the upgrades you deplore, that will be needed to deal with aircraft like the Pak Fa, which the F-35 will have NO hope of confronting one-on-one, under any circumstances.

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