F-22 Raptor stealth jets to get automatic backup oxygen systems to prevent new hypoxia-like symptoms

Apr 09 2014 - 12 Comments

More than 24 months since the last hypoxia-like incident occurred, the U.S. Air Force has decided to equip its F-22s with a backup oxygen system.

The Raptor fleet will soon receive a brand new backup oxygen system as part of multiple contracts awarded to Lockheed Martin (worth 30 Million USD) DefenseNews reported.

F-22s belonging to the 3rd Wing from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, have already received the new system, that will be implemented by the rest of the radar-evading planes by the second quarter of year 2015.

Being automatic, the new system does not require pilot intervention; a big improvement from the previous one that had to be activated by the pilot, which might be quite difficult, if not impossible if the latter was experiencing hypoxia-like/oxygen deprivation symptoms.

Because of the mysterious problem that plagued the stealthy fleet to such an extent the radar-evading aircraft were grounded back in 2011 following a deadly incident involving an Alaska-based, the Pentagon initially grounded the F-22s, and then, after lifting the flight ban, it restricted Air Force Raptors to fly near a “proximate landing location” in order to give pilots the possibility to land quickly if their planes’ On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) fail.

In May 2012, two 1st Fighter Wing “whistleblowers” appeared on CBS 60 minutes to explain why they were “uncomfortable” flying the Raptor (before changing idea few days later).

The installation of the new automatic backup oxygen system is not the only upgrade the U.S. Raptors will get in 2015: according to DefenseNews, along with advanced electronic warfare protection and improved ground threat geolocation, F-22s should also get the ability to carry AIM-120D and AIM-9X advanced missiles.

In April 2013, the plan to integrate the Visionix Scorpion helmet-mounted cueing system (HMCS), that would have made the F-22 capable to use HOBS (High Off Boresight System) air-to-air missiles as the AIM-9X, filling a gap against other current and future stealth planes in close air combat, was cancelled following the cuts imposed by the sequestration.

Let’s see what happens this time.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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  • P.Act

    Hope this solution will remove the problem entirely.

  • casey135

    Is this a different automated emergency oxygen system than the one announced on June 6, 2012 that the U.S.A.F. said would be in all Raptors by mid 2014?

  • Good to see the U.S.A.F. is staying on top of the F-22 Raptors O2 systems and not resting on their laurels. Interesting that the AiM-9X (and AiM-120D) are being integrated without a helmet mounted sight. Hopefully once the F-35 (FINALLY) is in production a HMD will make it’s way back into the budget for the F-22.

  • Supernova1987

    The F-22 is so superior than anything else right now that you wonder if the pilots need much training anyways.
    The USAF could cut the number of flying hours to 75h/year or so, just to keep the pilots qualified on the plane, and spend the money spared on an IRST + helmet so that the raptor can dominate the T-50 and J-20 when they come online. In the meantime the pilots could train for BVR extensively in simulators.
    That would also have the effect of stretching its service life by a few years.

    • artyom

      This is the best thing to kill F-22… If F-22 does not have well trained pilots it would be killed easily by well trained pilot flying MiG-29 or even MiG-21 Bison.

      Why? Because training was always the major factor in air battle outcome.

      Pilots training is primary the rest is secondary.

      • Supernova1987

        Wrong. BVR training can be done in part in the simulator.
        Also, the F-22 has the advantage of stealth, speed and SA to avoid a visual fight with a non stealthy plane.
        The best plane the F-22 would have to face is the Su-35 which is really not on par. The F-22 would kill it in BVR with 120Ds without too much trouble. The 9X block 2 also has BVR capability.
        Moreover, training has shown that on the F-22 a rookie pilot is better than an experienced pilot in a legacy plane, because its systems and stealth are so much better.
        Against other 5th gen opponents however it would be a different business, and the F-22 would need better sensors, missiles, and full training for the pilots. Unfortunately there is no funds for that.

        • Gothamite

          We went into Vietnam with a similar mentality…

        • Pui Mongkonprajak

          f-22 has never and will never see combat because it is too expensive $ wise and reputation wise to lose one in a conflict especially against a larger number of su-30/35 or pak-fa

    • big john ok

      F-22 is superior at beyond visual range engagements, when it closes to dog fighting range it has be shot down by in mock dogfights with Euro-fighter and I think also the French Rafale.

      • billycanton

        thats why you fly in fleets with 5th and 4th. then the f16s and f15s would be in formation during close combat during large fleet incursions. Its always to good to overestimate our enemy… but we got some good hard working pilots who get their balls busted by the brass…and are well funded.

  • Mike

    These articles would be much easier to read if you didn’t try to artificially prolong such a simple message by adding words like ‘stealth’, ‘radar-evading’ etc. every time you mention that jet.
    Makes it sound like a Fox News reportage, or a Lockheed Martin advertisement.

  • nikoliy

    I worked on the OBOGS system on F-14D and FA-18E. What is interesting is that early hornets had the same issue with OBOGS, so I don’t understand why they had such an issue with figuring out this problem.

    First you have to realize that the OBOGS does not work like other electronic parts. Its not like a light bulb ether on or off. It has a nitrogen absorbing filter inside and its effectiveness degrades at the end of its life cycle.

    The F-14D has 3 systems were the pilot can get oxygen from. First is the OBOGS, then a “backup oxygen bottle” with gaseous oxygen and an “emergency backup” inside the ejection seat. The emergency backup is intended for use during high altitude ejections but can also provide 2-3 min of oxygen if the pilot needs it.

    All FA-18s with OBOGS omit the “backup oxygen bottle” and only have the “emergency backup” inside the ejection seat.

    The way the system works in an F-14D is that if the system detects a lack of oxygen then it adds the oxygen from the “backup oxygen bottle” as needed. This way if the OBOGS is working at 90% the last 10% is made up with the backup system.

    On an FA-18 if the OBOGS system is working at 90% then the pilot is only getting 90% of what he needs. Because the OBOGS is not operating at a continuous flow but is cycling similar to the way humans breathe the system may work at 100% at start of the cycle and 80% at the end. This way the sensor for the system might not detect the overall lack of oxygen.

    The solution was to upgrade the sensors and to do more checks on the OBOGS system.