Conflict & Justice

Pentagon restricts F-22 fighter flights amid safety concerns


Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta speaks to the media at the Pentagon on September 30, 2011, in Arlington, Virginia.


Mark Wilson

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the Air Force on Tuesday to investigate safety problems with the F-22 fighter jet and restrict missions to regions where pilots can quickly land if they experience oxygen problems.

The Associated Press reported it will not affect Afghanistan because no F-22s are deployed there, however, it does mean routine patrols of Alaska airspace will be done by other aircraft.

Panetta's high-level intervention for a service-specific problem is unusual and could be seen as a sign of the F-22 program's weakness on Capitol Hill, the AP wrote.

When asked if the jet will be grounded, Pentagon press secretary George Little said "the secretary believes that this is the prudent course of action to take at this time," the Los Angeles Times reported. "As I indicated, he will be receiving regular updates, and all options remain on the table going forward."

CBS News reported that according to the Air Force, there have been 22 unexplained cases over the past four years in which pilots experienced symptoms of oxygen deprivation.

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CBS' 60 Minutes first reported the problem with the Raptor, which has been plagued by a mysterious flaw that causes its pilots to become disoriented while at the controls from a lack of oxygen.

Pilots complained that those oxygen-deficit problems have resulted in dizziness, blackouts and other symptoms. Maj. Jeremy Gordon and Capt. Joshua Wilson told 60 Minutes they will no longer fly the F-22.