Raptor: Problem Jet of the Year
The Air Force's most expensive fighter jet ever has been the center of national controversy after problems with the oxygen system. With the "grounding" of an F-22 at Tyndall Air Force Base in May and a crash on the base in November, the scrutiny only increased.
Even the cost of the plane has been contested. The Air Force has claimed the cost of the plane was between $140 and $190 million, but the Congressional Budget Office has said the stealth fighter has cost the U.S. government more than $400 million per plane.
Regardless of the cost, the Air Force has spent millions more investigating problems with the F-22.
The problems at Tyndall started this past spring. On May 31, a Raptor landed on its belly after the landing gear was not properly deployed. Little information has been released about the incident other than it was believed to be "pilot error."
On Nov. 15, an F-22 slammed into the ground, nearly obliterating the plane in the crash which occurred inside the base grounds at the end of a runway. The pilot safely ejected from the plane and was treated and released from a local hospital.
Officials at the time said the pilot was about five miles from the base when as-yet unidentified problem occurred.
Questions regarding the oxygen system being at the center of the Tyndall crash were quickly dismissed by Air Force officials. The November incident remains under investigation.
Still, the F-22 has been plagued with a string of incidents of pilots experiencing hypoxia symptoms dating back several years. An Associated Press investigation revealed Air Force officials were aware of flaws as early as 2005.
More recently, the Air Force has contended a valve inside the flight gear of an F-22 pilot allowed a "pressure garment" vest to inflate when it shouldn't, causing hypoxia symptoms in the pilot. Earlier this year, Air Force officials said they fixed the problem.
But, Air Combat Command in Langley, Va., said they were inundated with requests for a response regarding the two pilots from the Virginia Air National Guard who said in a report May 6 on CBS' "60 Minutes" that they do not feel safe flying the F-22 Raptor -- and that they are not alone.
F-22 Raptor pilots Jeremy Gordon and Josh Wilson said they came forward for the safety of all pilots involved.
The pilots said they loved flying the F-22 but had experienced hypoxia, which investigators said could stem from a malfunctioning onboard oxygen system. The problems grounded the F-22 for months, including at Tyndall Air Force Base in 2011, where F-22 pilots train.
Pierre Sprey, who helped develop the A-10 and F-16 jets, said he believes the glues that hold the F-22 stealth "skin" in place is emanating chemicals that are making the pilots sick. The Air Force has downplayed Sprey's accusations.
On top off all that, the time schedule for the 7th Fighter Wing Squadron move from New Mexico to Tyndall was delayed. The new fighter squadron of F-22 Raptors originally was scheduled to arrive in January.