STEALTH FIGHTER TEST FLIGHTS "IFFY"

The troubled F/A-22 stealth fighter has been in the works since 1986. But the jet may not be ready to start a key set of tests just two weeks away."I think it's iffy," Air Force Secretary James Roche tells Aerospace Daily.

Roche said the F/A-22 has overcome many of the problems that have plagued parts of the aircraft, including the canopy and vertical fin. But he said test flight rates continue to be lower than desired. The General Accounting Office said in a recent report that test pilots could fly only about 53 percent of their planned flights from October 2003 to January 2004, with maintenance problems being a major culprit.
The upcoming tests are supposed to be used to determine whether or not the stealth fighter -- criticized as a Cold War jet unsuited for the anti-terror conflict -- will go into full production this December.
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