F-22 Raptor fleet grounded since May 3 due to toxins - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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The Air Force’s fleet of F-22 Raptor fighters has been grounded since May 3 due to toxins entering the cockpit via the aircraft’s life support systems, sources with extensive F-22 experience said.

Service leaders grounded the stealthy twin-engine fighter after pilots suffered “hypoxialike symptoms” on 14 occasions. The incidents affected Raptor pilots at six of seven F-22 bases; the exception is Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.

But despite an investigation that has spanned nearly three months, no one yet knows what toxin or combinations of toxins might have caused the incidents, nor is it clear exactly how the chemicals are entering the pilots’ air supply, sources said.

Toxins found in pilots’ blood include oil fumes, residue from burned polyalphaolefin (PAO) anti-freeze, and, in one case, propane. Carbon monoxide, which leaves the blood quickly, is also suspected.

“There is a lot of nasty stuff getting pumped into the pilots’ bloodstream through what they’re breathing from that OBOGS [On-Board Oxygen Generation System]. That’s fact,” one former F-22 pilot said. “How bad it is, what type it is, exactly how much of it, how long — all these things have not been answered.”

The blood tests were performed after each of the 14 incidents in which pilots reported various cognitive dysfunctions and other symptoms of hypoxia. One couldn’t remember how to change radio frequencies. Another scraped trees on his final approach to the runway — and later could not recall the incident.

“These guys are getting tested for toxins and they’ve [gotten] toxins out of their bloodstreams,” the source said. “One of the guys was expelling propane.”

This source, along with the others, requested anonymity for fear of retribution.

The line of inquiry may shed new light on the death of Capt. Jeff “Bong” Haney, a 525th Fighter Squadron pilot who was killed when his F-22 crashed last November near Anchorage. Sources said that in Haney’s last few radio calls before his jet disappeared, he sounded drunk, a classic sign of hypoxia. Haney was known as a prodigiously skilled aviator who was in line to attend the elite Air Force Weapons School.

Air Force officials have said they have not yet completed the investigation into the crash.

Asked for comment about the possibility that F-22 pilots had been exposed to carbon monoxide, an Air Force spokesman, Maj. Chad Steffey said, “The safety of our aircrews is paramount, and the Air Force continues to carefully study all factors of F-22 flight safety.”

Asked about other toxins, Steffey referred questions to the Air Force Safety Center at Kirtland AFB, N.M., where officials did not respond by press time.

Officials with Lockheed Martin, which builds the aircraft, said they are cooperating with the investigation but cannot comment further.

http://www.airforcetimes.com/news/2011/ ... 2s-072511/

Fail. $150 million a pop, maintenance runs into the $50,000 mark per flight hour...
http://www.strategypage.com/dls/article ... 2-2011.asp

And now useless.
User avatar
By Rei Murasame
Wow, someone is in serious trouble. It's almost beyond belief that something like that slipped by them.

I assume that they are still unable to figure it out?
By grassroots1
Super-glue, no doubt.

Ladies and gentlemen, Lockheed Martin and the military industrial complex.

User avatar
By Rei Murasame
I can say this for sure. I would not want to be in the company responsible for whatever defective part is causing this. A lot of people in the USA's industrial sector must be peeing themselves right now.

Especially since they have a dead pilot on their hands because of it.
By grassroots1
Oh man I didn't even read that far Rei... wow the folks at Lockheed sure fucked up.
User avatar
By Typhoon
The on-board generation system is more reliable, safer and requires much less maintenance than a comparable stored-gas system.

Says the manufacturer Honeywell :)

It sounds like something is burning but you would imagine that any damage like that would be readily discerned by the eagle eyed mechanic. Makes me wonder if it is somthing sinister is occuring within the polymer/zeolite adsorbent the new system uses?
User avatar
By Igor Antunov
You'll need to discuss details with Piano Red. He's our 'insider'.

I'm sure it's nothing, just a blown fuse or something. ;)
By Piano Red
Aside from the har har har some of the resident Russophiles may get, this really isn't that big of a deal.

Compared to some of the early operational problems that plagued the Raptor's predecessors, from the F-4, F-15, and F-16 during their first years of service this is small beans in terms of a solution being found eventually, even if it comes down to this particular system in the F-22 having to be re-designed from scratch.

The grounding of the fleet in response to these incidents is simply USAF protocol. Any sane air force would do the same, and they have.

When the J-20 and PAK-FA reach IOC i'll be sure to post their inevitable operating deficiencies...if only for the schadenfreude. :lol:
User avatar
By Igor Antunov
This goes a little further than standard teething problems during design and development What you've done is pushed an obviously unfinished experimental platform into service. It reminds me of the Blackbird, of which over 1/3 were lost in crashes.
By Piano Red
No...you're flat out wrong. Teething problems is exactly what this is.

This set of problems has happened on other jet fighters as noted in the article, I do believe on the F/A-18 what it ended up being was system sucks in exhaust fumes when on the ground without enough wind to keep it clear of the intake. It also had some leaks in the piping allowing fumes that built up inside the aircraft skin to leak in. Back in WW2 more then one fighter design ended up with problems with toxic levels of gun gases leaking into the cockpit; issues like this can be solved but it could take a while since the air force isn't going to dare spend money to modify such an expensive plane without being sure of the results. The absolute worst that could happen long term is the F-22 goes back to using pressurized-bottled O2.

But I don't doubt they'll make it work eventually. The OBOGS is an oxygen concentrator taking the stuff directly out of the surrounding air, the same setup has been in use in aircraft for ages, it's not exactly some new experimental system we're talking about. Traditionally they were made by Cobham (working with no problem) but for the F-22 they switched to Honeywell. So it might very well just be a bug due to the maker not having the needed experience.
By Decky
Look guys stop moaning, capitalism makes the cheapest best most efficient products. What you want to government to make it? Socialists :roll:
I don't think canceled, scrapped, or dead are the right words to use. They ended production.


While the second test aircraft for the J-20 program just rolled out.

Russia, India, Vietnam, Turkey, Japan, South Korea will all likely have 5th gen aircraft by 2020. That's not including the F-35, with over 50 already built.
Igor Antunov wrote:Production ended rather early, even as technical problems began to arise. It smells like an abandoned programme. You don't spend tens of billions only to end production at 180 units. This sort of made it out of experimental phase, but didn't quite make it all the way.

Both China's and Russia's 5th gen programs are going to be 10s of billions of USDs and they are planning on building 200 aircraft. So they say officially anyway. All the other countries that plan on manufacturing 5th gen aircraft won't be building over 200 aircraft or if they do, not many over 200. So it does happen. The technology and lessons learned are invaluable.

It's common knowledge that we planned on building over twice as many at one point. In that respect you could call it a failed program, but stuff like that is littered throughout not only our military history but all countries histories. That's the way it works. Hindsight is 20/20.

I do have a question for all the military types on PoFo though. Is it traditional to upgrade the 8 or so test aircraft to be combat ready and join the fleet? Do they become trainers? Or are they scrapped?
User avatar
By Dr House
Rei Murasame wrote:Wow, someone is in serious trouble. It's almost beyond belief that something like that slipped by them.

I presume Lockheed Martin either covered it up or just didn't bother to test the craft enough for these problems to come out. The procurement process for American defense industries is in the shitter, and every aircraft contracted for since 2002 or earlier has been a fiasco. The Raptor program was actually scrapped two years ago already because the plane persistently shows up on radar systems. No new F-22s are being made.

At this point I have my doubts American defense contractors even give a shit.
They still have not got to the bottom of the hypoxia problem on the F-22, must be a real pain for the pilot not knowing if you are going to die or something every time you take off...here is the finding of the study into the Raptor problem for those interested.

http://weblogs.dailypress.com/news/loca ... elease.pdf

All these post build safety add-ons are not going to improve the performance or availability of the jets either. There really has not been a good fighter program since the F-16.

Is it traditional to upgrade the 8 or so test aircraft to be combat ready and join the fleet? Do they become trainers? Or are they scrapped?

Good question, some of the development aircraft are retained by the manufacturer to do problem solving and develop upgrades for the fleet, other development aircraft like some of the static test airframes are destroyed during the process of development. One YF-22 development aircraft is a museum piece as is the X-35. A lot of early F-35 aircraft will need to be 'finished' long after they are delivered as they are being produced imperfectly with completion of the testing program. :hmm:
I watched a documentary on the F-22, precisely how they are assembled. So many parts across so many factories brought together in a messy hand-built assembly line, and theres like 5 lead chaps doing the assembly on 6 aircraft at once. It's like a lamborghini assembly line, no wonder it's such a rip-off.

Sometimes I question the utility of such military hardware, it's not really needed when pummeling 3rd world countries and much smaller militaries, and it's especially useless if it came to large scale conflict. In times of total war one would be forced to assemble the simpler machines that can be truly mass produced. These are ww2-era germany-esque glory weapons, little more. As practical as a Buggati Veyron on a suburbian road and far more expensive.
Igor Antunov wrote:Sometimes I question the utility of such military hardware, it's not really needed when pummeling 3rd world countries and much smaller militaries, and it's especially useless if it came to large scale conflict.

Agree on the latter, disagree on the former. At this point some European- and Russian-design Gen. 4 fighters are cheap enough that smaller-scale military forces can easily afford them. Especially the latter -- the Sukhoi Flanker costs $30-40 million a pop, and can both fly circles around the F-15 (as it has 3-D thrust vectoring) and is a better ground attack airplane than the F-18 (which, for example, lacks the range needed for interdiction). The MiG-29 is a comparable fighter to the F-15 and costs a measly $11 million a pop. Too many resources have been placed on creating stealth fighters, but staying ahead of third world air forces (and ahead of Russia and China in terms of power projection) does necessitate an upgrade.

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