As DefenceTalk reported, the United States Air Force (USAF) has grounded its entire fleet of 165 advanced 5th generation stealth fighters – the F-22 Raptor, after problems were encountered with planes’ oxygen-generation system.
The advanced state of the art world’s most sophisticated fighter has not seen the skies it used to rule since May 3 after Gen. William Fraser, commander of U.S. Air Combat Command, ordered a complete stand-down until further notice.
ACC spokeswoman Captain Jennifer Ferrau told AFP:
“The safety of our airmen is paramount and we will take the necessary time to ensure we perform a thorough investigation. We are still working to identify the exact nature of the problem. It is premature to definitively link the current issues to the OBOGS system.”
The On-Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS), whose malfunction can be potentially fatal, has been under investigation after an F-22 crashed in November last year just outside Alaska. Before this complete stand-down announcement, Raptors were restricted to an altitude of 25,000 feet because a pilot has less than 10 seconds of useful consciousness in case of encountering a deficiency of oxygen and flying at 25k feet he could quickly dive below 18,000 feet where there is plenty of oxygen in the air.
There are plenty of reports which indicate that F-22 pilots suffered hypoxia from a lack of air. For example in one incident, an F-22 scraped treetops before landing but the pilot could not even remember it happening.
This is not the first time that an entire fleet of aircraft has been grounded. Back in November 2007, USAF grounded all of its F-15 fighters after one of the planes broke apart in flight and crashed. The planes remained grounded until March 2008.
Nonetheless, grounding of the entire fleet of aircraft in USAF is indeed rare.
F-22 Raptor has not seen any combat action in the ongoing campaigns in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan but it surely will have a busy schedule once J-20 and Su-PAK FA get into active service.
In case if you are not familiar with the glory of F-22 have a quick look at the video embedded below: