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F-22 Raptor fighters arrive at Kadena

Date Posted: 2012-08-03

Eight of a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets are on the ground at Kadena Air Base, where they’re awaiting decisions from the Pentagon on the lifting of flight restrictions triggered by reports of a mysterious oxygen problem that caused pilots to become sick.

The Lockheed Martin-built F-22, America’s most advance stealth fighter, is expected to remain at Kadena for several months. The jet was designed to evade radar, and its publicly listed speed is something beyond supersonic speed, even without using afterburners. The aircraft flew a special route from the United States to Japan by order of Air Force officials wanting to be sure there were possible landing sites in the event of oxygen problems. The planes reportedly also flew at lower altitudes, where oxygen would be less a problem.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta approved the deployment plan to Japan, and also ordered flight restrictions to be lifted. The Air Force, Panetta says, has identified the cause of the oxygen problem and taken steps to fix it. The problem, the Air Force says, stemmed from a valve in the pilots’ pressure vest that caused it to inflate and remain inflated, triggering breathing problems. The Air Force says it has replaced the valve, and has increased the amount of air flowing to pilots by removing a filter that had been installed to check for contaminants within the air system.

Pilots had been reporting dizziness and other symptoms of hypoxia, causing the Air Force in May to impose flight restrictions.

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