Air Combat Command boss Gen. William Fraser issued the order to stand-down the entire fleet of F-22s Tuesday after reports surfaced of potential malfunctions with the aircraft’s onboard oxygen-generation system. It provides the pilot with breathable air in flight; without sufficient oxygen, a pilot could blackout and face a life-threatening situation. ACC officials told the Daily Report Friday that it’s not yet clear how long the stand-down will remain in effect, saying only that “the safety of our airmen is paramount and we will take the necessary time to ensure we perform a thorough investigation.” In one report of a potential malfunction, an F-22 pilot at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, scraped the underside of his F-22 on trees during a landing approach, but could not recall what happened and is being treated for physiological symptoms, reported Blooomberg. The grounding comes six months after Capt. Jeffrey Haney, an Elmendorf pilot, was killed when his F-22 crashed during a nighttime training mission. The officials declined to say whether the oxygen system was a factor in the fatal mishap since the crash “is still under investigation.” In January, though, ACC restricted the flight ceiling for F-22 training, prohibiting pilots from flying higher than 25,000 feet, due to concern over the oxygen system. The aircraft’s normal operating ceiling is above 50,000 feet.
More than 100 B-21s will be needed if the nation is to avoid creating a high demand/low capacity capability, panelists said on a Hudson Institute webinar. The B-21's flexibility, stealth, range and payload will be in high demand for a wide range of missions, both traditional and new.