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F-22s Grounded Again, F-35s Can't Talk in the Arctic

This week is starting off a bit rocky for U.S.-made stealth jets with news that F-22 Raptors at Langley AFB, Va., and Elmendorf AFB, Ak., (I'm sorry, Joint Bases Langley and Elmendorf) have been grounded due to new concerns about the jets' oxygen systems.

From the Anchorage Daily News:

Air Force officials said an F-22 Raptor pilot at the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia appeared to have had an oxygen-related problem while in flight, the Air Force Times reported.

The commander of the 1st Fighter Wing in Virginia issued an order for a temporary stand-down of its stealth jets. The order applied just to Langley.

But JBER is "pausing" flights too as a safety precaution, said JBER public affairs director Maj. Joseph Coslett. The Alaska-based F-22s quit flying Thursday, he said.

Alaska has had no recent incidents with the Raptors, Coslett said.

The temporary halt to flying Alaska-based Raptors is a locally based decision, not like the four-month grounding of F-22 jets around the country that began in May, Coslett said.

"In a pause, they'll take a look at things, then will be allowed to fly," he said. It's not clear when the planes will begin flying out of JBER again.

This comes just a month after the entire Raptor fleet was cleared to fly again following a four month grounding because of unresolved problems with toxins seeping into the F-22s' oxygen systems. Click here for more info on that issue.

Meanwhile, Canada's early production model F-35 Joint Strike Fighters won't have the satellite communications gear necessary to communicate with the outside world while flying over remote regions like the Arctic, according to the Winnepeg Free Press.

This is a headache particularly for Canada and the U.S., who are increasingly concerned with defending resource rich Arctic territory from Russia as the Polar Ice caps melt. Now, fighters have patrolled over the Arctic for decades without Satcoms still, this is the 21st Century and good communications and situational awareness are crucial elements in winning a fight, now more than ever.

Canada isn't slated to receive F-35's equipped with Satcoms until 2019 and Ottawa is apparently looking at installing communications pods used by Canadian CF-18 Hornets on the F-35s as a stopgap measure for Arctic ops. This move would obviously trade stealth for communications.

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