F-22s Grounded Again, F-35s Can’t Talk in the Arctic

This week is starting off a bit rocky for U.S.-made stealth jets with news that F-22 Raptors at Langley AFB, Va., and Elmendorf AFB, Ak., (I’m sorry, Joint Bases Langley and Elmendorf) have been grounded due to new concerns about the jets’ oxygen systems.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

Air Force officials said an F-22 Raptor pilot at the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia appeared to have had an oxygen-related problem while in flight, the Air Force Times reported.

The commander of the 1st Fighter Wing in Virginia issued an order for a temporary stand-down of its stealth jets. The order applied just to Langley.

But JBER is “pausing” flights too as a safety precaution, said JBER public affairs director Maj. Joseph Coslett. The Alaska-based F-22s quit flying Thursday, he said.

Alaska has had no recent incidents with the Raptors, Coslett said.

The temporary halt to flying Alaska-based Raptors is a locally based decision, not like the four-month grounding of F-22 jets around the country that began in May, Coslett said.

“In a pause, they’ll take a look at things, then will be allowed to fly,” he said. It’s not clear when the planes will begin flying out of JBER again.

This comes just a month after the entire Raptor fleet was cleared to fly again following a four month grounding because of unresolved problems with toxins seeping into the F-22s’ oxygen systems. Click here for more info on that issue.

Meanwhile, Canada’s early production model F-35 Joint Strike Fighters won’t have the satellite communications gear necessary to communicate with the outside world while flying over remote regions like the Arctic, according to the Winnepeg Free Press.

This is a headache particularly for Canada and the U.S., who are increasingly concerned with defending resource rich Arctic territory from Russia as the Polar Ice caps melt. Now, fighters have patrolled over the Arctic for decades without Satcoms still, this is the 21st Century and good communications and situational awareness are crucial elements in winning a fight, now more than ever.

Canada isn’t slated to receive F-35’s equipped with Satcoms until 2019 and Ottawa is apparently looking at installing communications pods used by Canadian CF-18 Hornets on the F-35s as a stopgap measure for Arctic ops. This move would obviously trade stealth for communications.

  • @ponder68

    Time for new-build F-15s and F-16s?

  • mpower6428

    *facepalm*.

    it looks like the airforce is waiting for the technical experts of the family of the dead pilot to figure the problem out…. you know, during the lawsuit.

    that might actually be cheaper AND quicker then a joint industry/airforce technical investigation.

  • Jeff Wheeler

    I have been saying to my pilot friends for a while that we do not need all of the stealth jets because the -15 and -16 can do the job. You want to update them? Fine, just do like the Navy did with the F/A-18 and build an “F/G” model-15 and an “E/F” model-16.

    • Riceball

      Not for much longer they can’t, fighters being produced by other countries, most notably Russia & China, are beginning to rapidly gain parity with our F-15’s & 16’s. In other words, we are losing our edge and every war plan we have is based around us achieving and maintaining air superiority if not air supremacy and we’re going to have a hard time doing with 4th generation aircraft when our potential enemies will be fielding at least 4.5 gen aircraft.

      The other to consider is that creating a Super Eagle or Super Falcon like the Navy did with the F-18 is not going to be all that cheap, esp. not after we’ve already sunk all of this money into the F-22 & F-35. The E/F models of the F-18 wasn’t just a simple upgrade from one letter model to another as the E/F designator would imply, the Super Hornets are essentially completely redesigned aircraft that happen to resemble the legacy Hornets. There are a number of noticeable differences between the Super Hornet and its legacy predecessors in addition to being much larger than its predecessors. By the time we develop and successfully test a Super Eagle or Super Falcon other countries will have started designing and/or fielding their 5th generation aircraft while be fielding what would be, at best, 4.5 gen aircraft; not a very good return on investment and one that could potentially have very negative consequences.

      • chaos0xomega

        Yes, but Russia and China are only 2 of the roughly what? 200+ nations on planet earth? Even with the proliferation of the technology, we don’t need 2500 stealth aircraft to fight 500 stealth aircraft. The USAF has long had the concept of the ‘high/low mix’ it needs to modify that to the ‘high/low stealth/conventional’ mix. We can do just fine with 500-1000 stealth fighters and a much larger reserve of legacy systems.

  • Guest

    The F35 issue seems overblown. They’ll get the Satcoms just a couple years after they enter service, and in the meantime may have a less stealthy stopgap.

    Those of you clamoring to abondon stealth and upgrade the current gen fighters are forgetting that the vaunted teen series fighters had issues of their own back in the day. The F-18 didn’t have enough range, the F-14 wasn’t maneuverable enough, the F-15 was too expensive…etc etc. Stealth aircraft have been serving us very well for the last 30 years. Going backwards when other countries are going forward with their own stealth designs is not a very smart idea.

    • Tee

      The F-35 totally depends on it’s LO (Stealth) capabilities to survive. When designed back in the 90’s there wasn’t a counter to it. Today is another story. The Russians are putting in their new ” Tikhomirov NIIP L-band AESA Radar” in all their new fighters and retrofitting all Flanker series aircraft with it. The L Band wing mounted AESA Radars can detect “Stealth Aircraft and Missiles” at fairly long ranges. Example F-117 at 40+ miles ( F-117 All Aspect Stealth), so the F-35 ( Front Only Stealth) won’t be able to sneak up on them like the LM Power Point presentations say they will.

      The Russian Tikhomirov NIIP L-band AESA Radar links. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_PAK_FA http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/12/… http://www.ndu.edu/press/lib/images/jfq-57/kopp.p… http://ericpalmer.wordpress.com/tag/l-band/
      http://igorrgroup.blogspot.com/2009/08/tikhomirov…
      http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2009-06.html

    • Tee

      The F-35 totally depends on it’s LO (Stealth) capabilities to survive. When designed back in the 90’s there wasn’t a counter to it. Today is another story. The Russians are putting in their new ” Tikhomirov NIIP L-band AESA Radar” in all their new fighters and retrofitting all Flanker series aircraft with it. The L Band wing mounted AESA Radars can detect “Stealth Aircraft and Missiles” at fairly long ranges. Example F-117 at 40+ miles ( F-117 All Aspect Stealth), so the F-35 ( Front Only Stealth) won’t be able to sneak up on them like the LM Power Point presentations say they will.

      • Tee

        The Russian Tikhomirov NIIP L-band AESA Radar links.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_PAK_FA
        http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2010/12/…
        http://www.ndu.edu/press/lib/images/jfq-57/kopp.p…
        http://ericpalmer.wordpress.com/tag/l-band/
        http://igorrgroup.blogspot.com/2009/08/tikhomirov…
        http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2009-06.html

      • Tim

        That Russian radar, which you felt obligated to boast everywhere on this site, is just another ploy to make themselves feel good. The fact is that Russian AESA radar technology lagged behind the U.S. more than 10 years. Plus, without a full scale REAL stealth model to test it, this claim is just another figment of imagination.

        • Tee

          I tried to post the Links that let the reader decide themselves just how good it is, and they won’t let me post them.

  • Jayson

    It’s a 21st century technology AC but it doesn’t come with 21st century communications? The F18 did? Am I missing something?

    • SMSgt Mac

      Yes. Yes you are. The CF-18s have a rapidly obsolescing comm pod that was part of a multi-billion $ (Canadian?) in the 00’s. This is not an F-35 problem but a SATCOM problem affecting alot of things. One of the biggest unknowns is what SATCOM capability will exist in the out-years. Think about how the haters would crow if the SATCOM software on the F-35 was delivered only to have to redo it immediately afterwards. File it under “Gee, Canada has as many clueless journalists and politicians as the US”.

  • Daedalus

    Why not continue with bottled air for the time being until the air-scrubber issue is corrected?

    • PMI

      Where are you going to put it?

    • blight

      There has been some form of OBOGS around in the force for quite some time.
      http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/po…

      “The OBOGS was developed to provide a continuous supply of oxygen-enriched air to the aircrew when the system is activated during aircraft engine operation. OBOGS is currently installed in the AV-8B, TAV-8B, T-45A, F-14D, and F/A-18C/D aircraft. OBOGS is scheduled for installation in all new F/A-18E/F, T-6A, and MV-22 aircraft. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was achieved in September 1985. The Navy Support Date (NSD) for OBOGS was achieved in 1987. OBOGS is in Phase III (Production, Deployment, and Operational Support) of the Weapon System Acquisition Process (WSAP).

      The ABO Contaminant Analyzer is used with existing auxiliary support equipment to provide ABO contaminant analysis capability. IOC was achieved in March 1994. All ABO Contaminant Analyzer units were delivered prior to the NSD in September 1996. This Program is in Phase III (Production, Deployment, and Operational Support) of the WSAP.”

  • Mark

    I bet the oxygen system computer controller has a stuxnet type infection.

  • John Moore

    Great we still need to choose an engine and now we get no communication gear this deal is looking worse and worse from a CA perspective.

    • Gregg Harcus

      Yeh but computers can be hacked and interfered with by EM. I can see it now the bombers doing a 180 and bombing the home base or the White House.

    • Gregg Harcus

      I thought the AF did pick the engine but pork members of Congress didn’t like the choice the AF made and decided that they knew better.

  • drball

    Okay let’s fix the damn birds…..One find out who is making the OBOGS system and rip the O.A. dept a new one for this….Two, in the mean time modify the F/A18 E/F OBOGS system and put it in the F/A-22..The U.S. Navy has had a much better track record with the F/A-18E/F/G than the F/A-22 ever has, BTW yes F/A18E/F/G is a totaly different airframe than the Legacy Hornet. The Next Gen Super Hornet will be even better and can have thurst vectoring and the improved center line weapons station-fuel tank system added….The F-35B should be bought to replace the AV-8B only and new build F/A-18E/F/G to replace the Legacy Hornet and the EA-6B….If the Air Force needs the F-35 let them pay for it…..Or simply phase the Air Force out…..BTW do we even need the Air Force ?

    • chaos0xomega

      The same question can be asked about the Navy or the Marines. Generally, if you’re seriously asking that question, then you probably won’t understand the answer.

    • Nick

      Hmm, no Air Strike before Desert storm? Lybia? WTF dude !? Go ahead lead the way buddy.

  • drball

    As for the China issue just how many new A/C that work will China have ? That is answer is based on one thing how many next gen aircraft engines can China make itself….China has to buy it’s new jet engines from Russia and might not be able to provide it’s own engine in the first place (Hello G.E.)Yes the Chinese are working on it but it might be a case of to little to late because Putin is going to be the Next Russian President and he has not forgoten what the Chinese did to them the last time Russia and China tried to build engines jointly (the Chinesehaving stolen the engine tech and did not pay for it )…..Much to the sorrow of the Russian Aerospace Industry….Remember no engines no fly airplane…..One more thing check Janes to get far more info than is posted here…

  • John Rawlingson

    Maybe we can patrol along the new train line instead when they build the Bering Strait tunnel? Check out this blog on that issue!
    http://coldwarcontinues.blogspot.com/2011/10/beri…

  • Black Owl

    We could have just used the same old reliable oxygen and communications systems from 4th gen fighters, but no. We had to redesign the wheel with the F-22 and F-35. If it’s not broke don’t fix it.

  • STemplar

    Here’s a question. What will the F35s be capable of doing when they reach IOC? I would hope they will be more capable than what we have now. Granted the B model will be a leap compared to the Harriers, but will the A and the C bring much to the table at first? We are spending a lot of money, seems like a fair question.

  • Brian Black

    Canada is scheduled to receive its F35 from 2016.

    As long as Russia doesn’t invade Canadia between 2016 and 2019 there shouldn’t be much of a problem with carrying unstealthy coms pods.

    Couldn’t they also just buy F35C without tail-hooks to get over the in-flight refueling problem? And get the extra range for their expansive country as a bonus.

  • Billy

    And you people worry about Russia’s PAK FA and China’s J22. Thier jets are gonna probably see more problems than our Raptor.

    • Guest

      It’s guaranteed that they will have their own teething problems, but basing our capabilities on the assumption that they will never get their designs to work is risky to say the very least.

  • MandB

    ”This is a headache particularly for Canada and the U.S., who are increasingly concerned with defending resource rich Arctic territory from Russia as the Polar Ice caps melts” - WHAT!! Were on earth did you get this drivel from? So the Russians are heading into the US and Canadian EEZ’s and starting to drill. This is pure overhyped fiction of the worst kind. A major oil well blow out is the major threat in that region not pirate oil rigs.

    • blight

      The concern is that the Russians will start oil prospecting before the US, Canada, Russia, Iceland et al can redefine “territory” in an area that was previously unusable due to the ice. It’s the last “undiscovered country”, especially as all nations have renounced land grabs in Antarctica.

      Any attempt to define territorial boundaries will undoubtedly be helped by the presence of infrastructure. For instance, if the Russians define it to beyond the continental shelf and have plenty of oil rigs and infrastructure in place, and the US/Canada et al attempt to redefine otherwise it would be hard to ask the Russians to budge, especially after they put a few billion into staking their claim (and because they are “corporations”, though state-owned).

      A few decades ago the North Sea was an untapped resource due to hostile conditions. Now it provides a measure of energy security for Europe. The same will happen in the Arctic, but not at great scale until the price of energy reaches the appropriate point. Bear in mind we are hitting the point where shale oil is economically viable…so what is the cost of extracting oil from the arctic and moving it by ship, especially as temperatures rise and the ice begins to recede? Comparable, better or worse than shale; especially with the added environmental costs thrown in for good measure?

  • Tim

    This whole f22 / JSF situ is a fiasco for the US. At least the Eurofighter works and is operational and can actually fight .

    The US should scrap the JSF and buy a ton of
    Strike Eagles and the Stealthy version and fast track the fighter / UCAV’s.

    No matter what the USAF says the F22 is too unreliable and it’s stealth will be impossible to maintain in high level sorties necessary for full on air war. The Chinese could just field hundreds if not thousands of cheap jets loaded to the brim with long range infra-red missiles and just keep firing then in the general direction of the US forces and cause mayhem with the whole Tactics of the F22.

  • Elijah

    Ain’t it great the way so many can identify the problems but offer no solutions. It’s not that they don’t know, it’s that they know so much that ain’t so. The wingriders have come this far from Kitty-H to here so lets give-m time. They’ll figer it out.

    • Gregg Harcus

      Sure but at what price? Let the contractors pay for it and when they figure it out we will decide if it it’s worth the money. Sounds like buying a car with 3 tires.

  • Kski

    They didn’t fix the oxygen system issue what do you expect.

  • Andrew

    While I love the PAK for what it’s supposed to be, do you really think the Russians are going to disclose anything factual about it that is negative?

  • Moto

    The Fifth Gen fighters do have the downside of growing up in the information age.

    How well do Aircraft Carriers do in the Arctic?

  • blight

    How /do/ you know it’s “stealthy” and “better than the f-22”?

    I agree we are generally overconfident about our low RCS designs, but still…

  • Roland

    The oxygen system storage could probably need some insulation for the cold weather when it goes -o degrees. A room temperature controller for the oxygen system storage could also be required in addition to the insulations.

  • Nick

    Screw it just crack the canopy…

  • William C.

    Just spend the money and fix the thing! OBOGS is used in several other aircraft, it shouldn’t be a problem just for the F-22.

  • drago

    what the hell? America can’t even implement something as standard as the pilot’s breathing system anymore? Pathetic!

  • Zulu

    The F-22 are flying again today. Don’t worry, folks. We still have the best airforce and awesome fighters in the world.

  • CJL

    Bring the Phantom back with it’s LOX system and that little cute rat that comes out when it loses power, awsome!

  • Robert A. Fritts

    This will be funny. Congressmen and Senators from Lock-Mart contibuting Districts and States will push for US taxpayer funding so the Canadians can have comms with their American partners in defense of the “Resource Rich Artic”. Then these same bought off prostitutes will take contributions from Greenies and vote to protect the “Resource Rich Artic” from being used for anything. Never thought I would ever live in a , totally corrupt, Banana Boat Republic. But here we all are!

  • Shawn

    LOX, 2 jet engines, F-15 upgrades. Plenty of space for new avionics, communications, etc… “BET ON A VET”