Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz responds to questions in the Pentagon on July 24, 2012. Schwartz said the Air Force has data indicating the cause of the F-22 Raptor's hypoxia-related incidents stem from the quantity, not the quality, of oxygen available in the cockpit. (U.S. Air Force photo/James Varhegyi)
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz responds to questions in the Pentagon on July 24, 2012, to discuss Air Force accomplishments during his time as Chief of Staff. Schwartz also spoke about data indicating the cause of the F-22 Raptor's hypoxia-related incidents. (U.S. Air Force photo/James Varhegyi)
An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron returns to a training mission after refueling March 27, 2012, over the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian Islands. During the training, U.S. Air Force Academy cadets received a familiarization flight to get a better understanding of the Air Force's global reach capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Michael Holzworth)
An F-22 Raptor with the 1st Fighter Wing from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. pulls into position to accept fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker with the 756th Air Refueling Squadron, Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md., May 10, 2012. The first Raptor assigned to the Wing arrived Jan. 7, 2005. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)
by Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle
Air Force Public Affairs Agency
7/25/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said here July 24 the Air Force has data indicating the cause of the F-22 Raptor's hypoxia-related incidents stem from the quantity, not the quality, of oxygen available in the cockpit.
"Given tests in the altitude chamber and the centrifuge, we have confirmed that there is a combination of hardware-related items that have created breathing problems for our pilots," Schwartz said.
A valve in the upper pressure garment worn by pilots during high-altitude missions was causing the vest to inflate, and remain inflated, resulting in increased pressure on the pilot's chest, he said.
The Air Force will replace the upper pressure garment vest valve. Additional measures to improve airflow include the April decision to remove the C2A1 filter, which was previously used to test for contaminants in the cockpit, as well as future efforts to explore improving the oxygen delivery hose and its physical connections, he said.
"We have a deliberate plan underway now both to modify that equipment, to test that equipment under the most demanding conditions, and that will begin to hit the field in September," Schwartz said. "Given the limitations the Secretary of Defense has imposed until those improvements are fielded, we are confident that we have managed the risk associated with continuing operations in the F-22."
Schwartz said the Air Force will continue updating Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to demonstrate the results of the improvements.
In May, Panetta directed the Air Force to limit all F-22 flights to remain near potential landing locations to enable quick recovery and landing should a pilot encounter oxygen deprivation. The secretary also directed the Air Force to expedite the installation of an automatic backup oxygen system in all of the planes, and he asked for monthly progress reports as the service continued the search for the root cause of the problem.
These actions were in addition to steps the Air Force already was taking to determine the root causes of the hypoxia-like symptoms that some pilots experienced.
Following an Air Force briefing last week, Panetta decided to gradually lift restrictions on the aircraft. He authorized the Air Force to deploy a squadron-sized element of F-22s to Kadena Air Base, Japan, via the Northern Pacific transit route, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little briefed reporters earlier in the day.
Schwartz said the Air Force will take proactive steps for the deployment, to include placing an F-22 pilot on the tanker accompanying the fighters so that a Raptor expert can offer advice as needed in the immediate vicinity of the deploying aircraft.
"The tanker will have sufficient fuel aboard should the formation need to descend to a lower altitude to make its destination," Schwartz said. "These are the kinds of prudent aviator risk management actions that we're taking for this deployment."
Initial long-duration flight routes will be designed to pass near airfields. The Air Force also has imposed an altitude restriction on the aircraft so pilots will not need to wear the pressure vest.
Training sorties will remain near runways until completion of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board-recommended corrective actions expected by the end of the summer.
The Air Force will notify Panetta when fixes are in place for the pressure vest and related cockpit life support components. Pending successful completion of associated testing and NASA's independent analysis, Panetta will consider returning the F-22 fleet to normal operations.
The F-22 aircraft have flown more than 7,000 sorties, accumulating more than 9,000 hours since the last unexplained incident involving hypoxia-like symptoms occurred March 8.
(Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service, contributed to this story.)
7/30/2012 1:06:23 PM ET Hypoxia is absolutely right. I also work on the F-22 and have for many years and even though I am proud of the Air Force I am ashamed that they have wasted so much tax payer money on this failed weapons platform.
Also in the AF, Tyndall AFB
7/27/2012 8:55:31 AM ET I've seen the F-22 fly. Amazing I've been around military aviation for 30 years and never seen an aircraft do what the F-22 can do. I'm glad it's us that has the F-22 and not our enemies
Eric, Hill AFB
7/26/2012 1:25:16 PM ET @Someone... did you really say Iran in there? You need to do some reading serious reading, SERIOUS reading, before you pop your mouth off. The F-22, Osprey and F-35 are all monumental failures in systems engineering and reflect an AF that is more concerned with shiny toys vs. functionality and real world requirements. The cost and risk management on these 3 ac is a joke and no one is being held accountable. Your answer is put a rated flyer as bonus crew on a tanker to talk pilots through it We're rushing this to eliminate egg on face adn someone's going to die.
7/26/2012 1:01:32 PM ET Mr. Shane The reason the F-22 has not been used in combat is because currently our enemies have no capability to attack this fighter in the air. However the Raptor has just recently received an upgrade that allows it to be useful against ground targets making it more of a multi-role attack aircraft and not an just an air-air fighter. What are you going to say when China or Iran build their next gen aircraft and the U.S. has to play catch up because voters such as yourself wanted to cut funding for military tech development.
someone in the AF, JBPHH Hawaii
7/26/2012 12:13:02 PM ET Awesome The defect is within the internals of the suit however please explain to me how the aircraft maintainers were making claims to have been experiencing hypoxia like symptoms while conducting engine runs when the maintainers don't even wear flight suits Maybe the Air Force should take in the claims of both the maintainters and pilots as a whole instead of focusing on one area their precious pilots and come up with a better diagnosis. To me this is bogus. All this money spent to solve only half of the problem. I still think the whole hypoxia incident was an excuse for people to come to work hung-over. The symptoms are the same.
AB, new mexico
7/26/2012 11:47:03 AM ET You cut The budget of the military and we fall behind other countries. You cut into troop moral troop well being etc. how about we stop frivolous spending on some things we don't need. We buy the normal items from normal vendors. We should not have to buy paper and supplies from the gov't store... It's too pricey Airframe equipment and war fighting tools shouldn't be nickel and dimed.
7/26/2012 9:23:16 AM ET The US spends more on its military than the next 19 biggest spending nations combined.This is where our nation needs to cut its spending. The F 22 has not been used in a combat despite the initial introduction of this jet in 2005. The last of the 188 planes rolled off the assembly line in April of 2012. It has cost The United States more than 64 billion more than double the initial expected cost.Now they have given another contract to Lockheed Martin to fix the mistakes of the 188 planes that have issues. httpwww.youtube.comwatchvczoLH2KEQ6E
Patrick Shane, Pennsylvania
7/26/2012 4:56:23 AM ET Thank goodness we have those tankers. NKAWTG...N