A âvery smallâ number of United States Air Force pilots have requested to not fly the Air Forceâs F-22, General Mike Hostage told reporters at a media briefing.
The F-22 Raptor is supposed to be the USAFâs new elite fighter, replacing the F-15 and F-16. However, since entering service in 2005, the stealth fighter jet has been mired with problems, ranging from poor adhesives to rust to its life support system.
The commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base told reporters that some pilots requested to be reassigned.
The oxygen generating system was suspected of causing a crash in November 2010. In addition, a few cases have been reported of pilots suffering from hypoxia and decompression after flying. The entire F-22 fleet was grounded in May 2011.
Before the grounding, pilots were restricted from flying above 25,000 feet, but problems continued.
The official Air Force report eventually concluded that the November 2010 accident was caused by pilot error, though it noted that the oxygen system failed midflight.Â
Though investigators were unable to find a root cause, the Pentagon allowed the F-22 to fly again. It was grounded again in October, but ungrounded soon after.
Gen. Hostage said that he would fly the airplane to examine the problems first-hand. He also noted the importance of air superiority, something the advanced fighter definitely brings.
It was reported that the USAF had deployed some of its F-22 Raptors at the UAE Al Dafra Air Base. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman responded, saying its presence would endanger the security of the region.
The USAF has 187 of the fighters, though it originally planned to get 750. Each unit costs around $150 million to produce. The original 750 fighter order was expected to cost $26.2 billion, but the program has already run over $66 billion.
After going over budget, the F-22 lost its funding in 2009, and the last one was built in December 2011.