Virginia and Alaska F-22s Back in the Skies

Well, the F-22 Raptors out of Langley AFB in Virginia and Elmendorf AFB, Ak., are flying again following a short grounding due to concerns about the jet’s on-board oxygen systems.

The Viriginia-based Raptors were grounded by 1st Fighter Wing Commander, Col. Kevin Robins, on Oct. 20 after one of his Raptor pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms while flying.  Emendorf’s Raptors were grounded as a cautionary measure, too.

Remember, concerns about problems with the jet’s oxygen system causing hypoxia caused the Air Force to ground all F-22s from May until September of this year. (The jets had been flying with altitude restrictions because of the problem for months before that.)

F-22s were only cleared to fly again in September — special filters have been added to the planes’ oxygen systems and pilots are subject to screening and monitoring for any health issues.

The most troubling part of all this is the fact that the Air Force still doesn’t know what’s behind the reports of possible toxins seeping into pilots’ oxygen supplies on its most advanced jet.

Here’s what the Air Force told Defense News:

“There is no conclusive cause or group of causes that has been established for the incidents that prompted the standdown earlier this year,” Air Combat Command spokesman Scott Knuteson said in an emailed statement. “We’ve therefore made the decision to resume operations while implementing improvements to the aircraft’s life support systems and carefully collecting and analyzing operational, maintenance and physiological data for all Raptor flights - more than 1,300 missions since the return to flight.”

However, as a condition to allowing flights to resume, Air Force leaders have enabled operational commanders to suspend operations as needed.

“Part of our protocol is to allow units to pause operations whenever they need to analyze information collected from flight operations to ensure safety,” Knuteson said. “That is what is happening at Langley at the moment, and we support that decision.”


  • Yep

    Wow, all the years we have been supplying oxygen in flight and we still can master this?

    • cthel

      All previous aircraft have simply used bottled oxygen produced in an industrial scale facility. The F22 extracts oxygen from the ambient air using (in effect) a miniaturised oxygen plant.

      The advantages of this system include a weight saving (the oxygen generator is lighter and less bulky than liquid oxygen tanks and associated equipment), easier logistics (airbases no longer need oxygen plants or supplies of liquid oxygen) and safety (airbases no longer need to have liquid oxygen lying around, and you no longer need to put tanks of liquid oxygen in a plane filled with aviation fuel)

      At the moment, it sounds like the cutting edge technology is having teething problems

      • Ben

        Thank you.

        But I wonder, why use such an oxygen synthesis system when your aircraft is designed to fly at altitudes of 50,000 feet or so? Wouldn’t that be a very scarce environment for extracting oxygen out of?

        Or why wouldn’t the F-22 carry backup oxygen bottles as an emergency spare, in case the oxygen extractor failed? The system could simply move from the extractor to the onboard oxygen in the event of such a failure.

        • blight

          From Honeywell’s OBOGS page:

          “In an OBOGS application, an adsorbent is used to remove nitrogen from the air, which in turn enriches the oxygen concentration in the outlet air stream. Materials such as zeolite are commonly used to remove nitrogen and concentrate oxygen. ”

          However, this describes oxygen concentrators, and not oxygen generators. My guess is that the OBOGS also uses a CO2 scrubber, again to concentrate oxygen. Not sure how much available O2 you can get from simple scrubbers, but the other option is chemical oxygen generation (superoxides as your oxygen source); the reaction is exothermic (which might be why OBOGS has had issues of late?)

          • Chuck

            They wouldn’t use CO2 scrubbers, as there is very little CO2 in air. Scrubbers are only needed in enclosed environments (submarines, space capsules, etc.) where already breathed air is being recycled.

      • PMI

        “All previous aircraft have simply used bottled oxygen produced in an industrial scale facility.”

        —The F-15E, F-16, F/A-18E/F, AV-8B, A-10 T-6, T-45 & C-130 all use OBOGS. So did the F-14D (and others).

  • Lance

    Time to put a older F-15 oxygen system in a F-22 the one Lockheed made isn’t working.

    • CAW

      its Lockheed.. that’s why..

  • John Rawlingson

    This is becoming more than a temporary problem. Surely there must be a solution in sight but it just seems like theyve ordered them back into the sky and cross your fingers. The problem is the pilots will be so unfamiliar with their aircraft, by the time the -22 is actually in working order, there will be no-one to fly them.
    Check out this blog for something similar.

  • RCDC

    They need to check the oxygen system on the jet and jet design daily. Thee jet oxygen compartment should have insulation and it may need room temperature control. The oxygen system maybe exposed to outdoor air temperature that may have caused the hypoxia.

  • orrff

    The solution is unmanned fighter aircraft.

    • Hunter78


      • Bill

        Doesn`t all of our current Predator and Reaper fleet have the keystroke logger virus that keeps reapearing every time we delete it?

        Also the Skygrabber virus problem with video feeds.

        Keep the pilots in the seat, hopefully they can stay awake.

        • Draco

          those aren’t on the aircraft, just their computer systems and they say it’s mostly unknown, but appears harmless.

          UAVs are way better

          • Stratege

            Modern day remote controlled UAVs are useless in air-air combat against any more or less serious opponents with jamming technologies.

    • Stratege

      Not for air-air combat

      • Draco

        what air-air combat? That’s not an issue atm.

  • Jock Williams

    The OBOGS system -onboard oyygen generating system -has been used successfully for over 30 years in the F18 and other types as well. The Air Force will research and eventually solve the problem. Problems crop up from time to time in all new systems -the difference today is the amount of publicity attached now to problems that earlier would have been dealt with quietly and discreetly -and out of the public eye!
    I am sure the military longs for that more “private” era when such glitches arise.
    To be honest I fail to see the benefit of public discussion of matters that may give “aid and comfort to our enemies”.
    I am really glad to see “experts” who have never flown a fighter presenting such facile solutions as “The solution is unmanned fighter aircraft”. “Absolutely” is equally as effective!
    I sure wish I had a 10 letter solution to this or many other problems!

    Jock Williams Yogi 13 30 year fighter pilot

    • SomeFighterJock

      2 same

    • Diallo

      While they do need to fix the OBOGS issue with the aircraft, but the UAVs definitly have their place more so than the F-22 becuase air-air combat isn’t an issue right now and someone doesn’t have to sit in the seat for hours on end to do whatever needs taken care of.

  • Kski

    So they fix the issue, no.

  • itfunk

    There is a happy medium where Lockheed gets paid repeatedly for rework, the aircraft fly in some fashion and not too many pilots get killed. It’s been going on for a year now, no reason why it couldn’t just keep on going.

    • Dfens

      You say that like it is a bad thing. Sure, we in the defense industry could use our powers for good, but it doesn’t pay as well.

      • crackedlenses

        With freedom comes the opportunity to do things in the worst way possible. It’s time to make Lockheed compete for a living….

    • Diallo

      That’s just stupid. They aren’t going to let people die just to make another buck.

      • Dfens

        Look at how beautiful the world is through my pretty glasses!

  • STemplar

    Thank God we’ve re-established air dominance over Virginia and Alaska, I was getting nervous….

    • Draco


  • Metrologist

    Check the standard gage for zero readings prior to onboard system checkout.

  • John Gatlin

    Excellent, Keep them flying high

  • chuck

    I feel more qualified than most to answer this concern since i watch the military channel and especially the shows about air planes, I think they should adapt rebreather systems like the seals use while diving. I also used to paint military planes, so that is proof of my qualifications.