Defense

September 5, 2012

U.S. commander: Stealth fighters `100 percent’ safe

The deployment of a dozen F-22 stealth fighters to Japan has so far gone off without a hitch as the aircraft are being brought back into the skies in their first overseas mission since restrictions were imposed over incidents involving pilots getting dizzy and disoriented, a senior U.S. Air Force commander told the Associated Press Aug. 30.

The six-month mission is a key test for the fighters, which have been the focus of intensive investigations over potentially deadly breathing problems in the cockpit.

Following more than a dozen incidents in which pilots said they were having symptoms suggesting they were not getting enough oxygen, and a fatal crash in 2010 that has since been ruled primarily a case of pilot error, the F-22 fleet was grounded for several months last year. It was put under restrictions again in May after two pilots came forward with claims that the aircraft weren’t safe to fly.

Brig. Gen. Matthew Molloy, commander of the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base on the island of Okinawa, said there have been no incidents with the F-22s since they arrived in Japan late July, just days after U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he was easing the restrictions. The planes have been flying almost daily since then, weather permitting.

“We won’t ever bury anything if there are issues, but so far, none,” Molloy, who is also an F-22 pilot, told The AP in a telephone interview. “It’s delivering safely.”

In giving the green light to send the stealth fighters to Okinawa, the Air Force said it had identified the main problem as a faulty valve in its “Combat Edge” flight vest and said it was taking a series of measures to ensure pilot safety. The measures should be complete by the end of the year.

In the meantime, the pilots in Japan are operating under altitude ceilings so they do not need to use flight vests. They are also on a “tether,” meaning they must remain close to an emergency landing site.

“The Air Force has been aggressively looking at this very complex issue,” Molloy said. “I’m glad that we are getting back on the road.”

Some critics have questioned the Air Force’s decision to deploy the F-22s to Japan before all of the life support fixes have been finished.

The choice of Okinawa is also sensitive because of an uproar over plans by the Marines to deploy their MV-22 Osprey at another base there as early as next month. Despite reassurances from Washington, opposition to the Osprey, which can take off and land like a helicopter but fly like an airplane, is strong on Okinawa because of two recent crashes elsewhere.

Molloy said he is “100 percent” confident that the F-22s are safe to fly. He said sending them to Japan was justified because they boost U.S. capabilities in a key region and reassure U.S. allies of Washington’s commitment to them.

“I think this is very much appreciated by Japan,” Molloy said. “It strengthens our alliance, it shows that we are very committed.”

The problems with the F-22 have been particularly troubling for the Air Force because the fighter is in many ways its showcase aircraft – and possibly its’ most controversial.

The F-22 can evade radar and fly at faster-than-sound speeds without using afterburners, capabilities unmatched by any other nation. But at $190 million apiece, not counting development costs, it was lambasted in Congress as an overpriced luxury item not suited to current conflicts. Its production was halted last spring and the aircraft has never been used in combat.

Nevertheless, Molloy said the Japan deployment shows that the F-22 remains an important part of the U.S. air arsenal because it gives the Air Force the capability to get into contested areas against adversaries that have better air defenses than countries like Iraq or Afghanistan.

“It’s a game-changer. It does air superiority on steroids,” he said. “It’s a strategic gem, a national treasure.”

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines August 28, 2015

Business: Rafale, Mistral on agenda for Le Drian in Malaysia, India¬†– French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is due to visit Malaysia Aug. 30, with talks expected to cover the Rafale fighter jet and Mistral helicopter carrier, website La Tribune reported. U.S. Army to choose new landing craft next year¬†– In line with the Pentagon’s...
 
 

News Briefs August 28, 2015

Boeing plans to lay off some Southern California workers Boeing has announced that it plans to lay off employees at its Southern California-based satellite division. The Los Angeles Times reports that the aerospace giant said Aug. 25 that it will lay off as many as several hundred employees at the El Segundo factory. Boeing says...
 
 

Special tactics Airmen killed in hostile incident

Two special tactics airmen, who were deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, were killed near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26. Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27, and SSgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, were at a vehicle checkpoint when two individuals wearing Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms opened fire on them. NATO service members...
 

 

Hurricane Hunters to fly Tropical Storm Erika

The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters are operating out of Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., flying their state-of-the-art WC-130J Super Hercules into Tropical Storm Erika in support of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew four missions into the tropical storm from their deployed location at St. Croix in the...
 
 
LM-MUOS

U.S. Navy, Lockheed Martin ready to launch MUOS-4 Aug. 31

The U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin are ready to launch the fourth Mobile User Objective System secure communications satellite, MUOS-4, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Aug. 31 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V...
 
 

Pentagon probing alleged distorting of war intelligence

The Pentagon’s inspector general is investigating an allegation that the military command overseeing the anti-Islamic State campaign distorted or altered intelligence assessments to exaggerate progress against the militant group, a defense official said Aug. 26. The official was not authorized to discuss the probe publicly and so spoke on condition of anonymity. The investigation was...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>