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May 10, 2012
By Jim Moore
A fighter with no equal in combat, the F-22 Raptor fleet is now complete.
Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md., and the U.S. Air Force recently announced the delivery of the 195th and final F-22 to the U.S. Air Force, completing the fleet of the fifth-generation stealth fighter, winner of the 2006 Robert J. Collier Trophy. The National Aeronautic Association, in bestowing the prestigious award, made particular note of the Raptor’s prowess: Raptor pilots achieved an unheard of 80-to-1 kill ratio against “Red Air” opponents during a large-scale exercise, and scored 100 percent direct hits with air-to-ground weapons.
The Air Force F-22 Raptor. Photo courtesy Lockheed Martin.
More recently, the Raptor’s performance has been questioned in other ways, with major news networks investigating reports of oxygen system failures following a fatal crash, and several near-misses. Two pilots interviewed by CBS news claimed that their complaints about safety problems, specifically oxygen system malfunctions, prompted warnings, threats, and intimidation.
The Air Force has investigated at least 18 reported incidents of pilot hypoxia, and has implemented safety measures including equipping pilots with devices that measure blood oxygen levels, offering early warning of the onset of trouble.
The Air Force, in a statement to ABC news, noted that safety measures were not fully detailed in recent reports.
“While the results of the Board's investigation did not identify specific engineering anomalies that explain the physiological symptoms that pilots have experienced, it did provide information to aircrews to aid them in recognizing, and responding to, flight-related physiological conditions,” the Air Force said. “Even without identifying specific engineering faults, the Air Force is pursuing reliable monitoring and backup system modifications to minimize aircrew risk.”
On May 3, the manufacturer and the Air Force focused their attention on the Raptor’s unmatched capabilities.
Robert Stevens, Lockheed Martin chairman and chief executive officer, said the Raptor has altered the strategic landscape forever.
"It is also fair to say that, along the way, the F-22 has had a fair number of challenges and a fair number of critics," Stevens said in an Air Force news release. "But let's not fail to take note today of the number of nations, who rank among either competitors or adversaries, who are frantically trying to replicate what you have done."
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