Four Months Later, F-22 Fleet Cleared To Fly
On September 19, the F-22 Raptor’s extended hiatus finally came to an end. The order came directly from Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donely, breaking a four month impasse that has cast doubt on the F-22’s future.
Even without combat experience, the F-22 is considered the most advanced and deadliest stealth fighter aircraft in the world. It’s expensive too, thus prompting then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to cancel the program in favor of the F-35 JSF. Only 187 F22s are to be deployed by the US Air Force and 90 are now operational.
The grounding of the F-22 fleet at the start of May was preceded by pilots claiming hypoxia-like symptoms from a defective life support system. The possibility of an oxygen related illness in a fifth-generation aircraft was enough to compel drastic action. This isn’t the only time the F-22 was hampered by technical problems. In the months following a suspicious F-22 crash in Alaska, either faulty or rusted ejection rods merited a brief suspension of F-22 flights in February this year. The F-22’s second grounding in its operational history became effective on May 3.
The restoration of the F-22—the US Air Force promised further tests to fix the unspecified glitch—comes a week after the F-35 also took to the skies after a controversial grounding.