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The Military Technology

Air Force Claims To Have Solved Fatal F-22 Oxygen Riddle 172

Posted by Soulskill
from the doctor-was-its-mother dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "DefenseTech reports that Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Lyon, the director of operations for Air Combat Command, told the Pentagon press corps that a valve that inflates the Combat Edge upper pressure garment is the cause of hypoxia-like symptoms in pilots flying the F-22. The problem forced the service to ground the Air Force's most prized stealth fighter fleet for four months and led two Raptor pilots to tell the nation on CBS's 60 Minutes that they refused to fly the jet because the pilots feared for their lives. The vests help control the breathing of pilots in high G-force environments, inflating before pilots start to experience extreme G-force conditions. However Lyon explained that the valves caused the vests to inflate too early in an F-22 flight, causing pilots to hyperventilate in the cockpits. 'It's like putting a corset around your chest,' said Lyons. Eagle and Viper pilots stopped wearing the upper pressure garments in 2004 'because they were not giving us the contribution we thought they would,' said Lyon. F-22 pilots kept wearing them because they flew at higher altitudes and the vests protected the pilots from 'rapid decompression,' adding that F-22 pilots, many of whom flew the F-15 and F-16, didn't notice the vests had inflated early because of the layers of gear a pilot wears in flight. Such a simple answer to a problem that has eluded Air Force engineers and scientists for four years has left some Air Force pilots skeptical that the USAF has solved the problem. An F-16 pilot said the Air Force is either 'incompetent for missing this until now,' or 'dishonest and trying to sweep something under the rug.'"
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Air Force Claims To Have Solved Fatal F-22 Oxygen Riddle

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  • by CajunArson (465943) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @09:57AM (#40877315) Journal

    The valve explanation in the summary is a gross oversimplification. The valve - in isolation - was just fine. The combination of the valve, anti-chem warfare filters, the vest, and potentially other components in the *entire system* were causing the issues in seemingly random ways that were hard to fully pin down. If you took any of these components and tested it individually, you'd never spot the issue.

    The moral of the story is that, just like complex software, complex aircraft can exhibit emergent bug behaviour that you won't catch with unit tests.

    • "complex physical systems" actually. This lesson can be generalized in a way helpful far beyond warfare
    • That's just what they want you to think. It's actually the antigravity drive reverse engineered from the alien spaceship at Area 51 causing air molecules to "fall up" out of their lungs :-P
      • by tftp (111690)

        Breathing is not dependent on gravity. You can walk on your feet, lay on your back, stand on your head, or float inside the ISS - and be still breathing.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The moral of the story is that, just like complex software, complex aircraft can exhibit emergent bug behaviour that you won't catch with unit tests.

      It's not rocket science to figure out that inserting a carbon filter into your airflow would restrict the airflow.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:03AM (#40877353)

    The story I heard from someone who works at Lockheed-Martin and who specifically worked on the F-22 was that they were using the wrong lubricant on the valves of the oxygen system and that the bad lubricant was somehow to blame. At least, that's what the mechanics who worked on the jets were told...

    Makes me wonder why the official story would differ so much? Maybe the Air Force is covering up for a Lockheed mistake? The big defense contractors are definitely in bed with the government; I just wonder how far it really goes.

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:30AM (#40877463) Homepage

      The real story?
      The problem is they did not realize that Anubis had recall technology built into everything so when we based the YF22 on the captured Goa'uld technology was causing this. They modified the recall system so the controls would not respond so the Naquadah generators simply started to kill the pilots instead.

      Really simple. It was a contractor oversight.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by interval1066 (668936)

      The big defense contractors are definitely in bed with the government...

      Oh please, you're just now understanding the Real World? Put on your big boy pants. The REAL story here is if an improper lube can cause a system to fail, what does that say about modern American aircraft design? Out in the field units run out of things. I think we need to start designing things for real-world combat again. Read about the differences between an M-16 and an AK-47 some time.

      • by Richard_at_work (517087) * <richardprice@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 04, 2012 @11:20AM (#40877695)

        It doesn't say anything about American aircraft design - aircraft are complicated beasts, and if the lubrication used is out of spec for the task at hand then it may cause unexpected behaviour. Does it stick when it shouldn't? Does it jelly when it shouldn't? What is its operating temperature ranges? What does it react with?

        There are many reasons why a specific lubricant can only be used in certain ways and places on an aircraft - you don't want a low friction lubricant with a narrow operating temperature being exposed to low temperatures for example, but you also don't want a lubricant which can be exposed to low temperatures to be used in its place because it probably has a different viscosity and this will change how the lubricant works.

        The differences between an AK-47 and an M-16 is that an M-16 is a finicky beast, but its also a more accurate beast - you will achieve rates of fire and accuracy with an M-16 that you wouldn't with an AK-47, but it comes at the price of higher maintenance requirements.

        • by Richard_at_work (517087) * <richardprice@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 04, 2012 @11:36AM (#40877763)

          One further point to say - sure, its possible to make systems resilient to using the wrong lubricant, but the penalty for that is ... weight.

          More weight means a less efficient aircraft. More thrust required, higher fuel burn penalties, lower performance ratings etc etc etc.

          So require a specific lubricant, put that in the maintenance manual and move on.

        • by supercrisp (936036) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @01:38PM (#40878525)
          I think the point is that the benefits of these beasts don't outweigh their finickiness. We didn't need an M-16. An AK-47 would do the job. And we don't need an F-22 because there's not even a job for it currently. Yet we're talking about or are phasing-out the A-10, which we clearly need. Another great example would be the B-2, which can't fly a useful number of sorties because it has to be based on the other side of the world from its targets because of its finicky maintenance demands. We were better served in Iraq by the B-52 flying 18-wheeler from the 50s, which can haul twice the payload of the B-2 and was operated from in-theater bases as well as from US bases. Granted, the B-52 is plenty complicated, but is nothing like the "Spirit." Another great example would be the obviously failed combat radio project, which ended up with a device a soldier couldn't carry, couldn't operate in anything like outdoor temps, and took a few minutes to boot up. Can't recall the name, but there was an article on Ars Technica a few weeks ago.
          • by x3CDA84B (2592699) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @02:30PM (#40878959)

            We didn't need an M-16. An AK-47 would do the job.

            Have you ever actually fired those two weapons? I was sure I'd prefer the AK (due to high reliability) until I actually tried one and compared it with an M-4. The AK was almost embarrassingly inaccurate, and jumped around like a madman. The M-4 was extremely-accurate, and very stable while firing. It may take more careful maintenance, but there's no question which of the two I'd want to depend on as a weapon.

            • by hey! (33014)

              The notion that the M16 is unreliable got started with the shaky roll out in Vietnam. The normal teething problems of any system were exacerbated by a switch to ammunition that caused fouling problems. Recent surveys of combat troops show a very high rate of satisfaction with the weapon (80%).

              I suspect the myth lives on in part because of lack of statistical sophistication. Any weapon will jam from time to time, and Afghanistan is America's longest running war ever. Over eleven years there have no doubt bee

              • by flyingsquid (813711) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @09:01PM (#40881943)

                The notion that the M16 is unreliable got started with the shaky roll out in Vietnam. The normal teething problems of any system

                C.J. Chivers covers this in "The Gun", his history of the AK-47. The inherent reliability of the AK-47 goes back all the way to the prototypes. There are a couple of design decisions that make the AK-47 very reliable. One is that the gas piston reloading mechanism that ejects the spent casing has heavier components and has a much forceful action, it just hammers the spent shells out, so it is harder to jam. Another is that the components were deliberately made to fit together loosely, if the rifle gets dirty or is dropped in sand or mud, it can still fire. The rife was also protected by chrome, which made it corrosion resistant. And the other thing is, they field-tested the prototypes. They didn't settle on the AK-47 design and then start field-testing, they had a number of different designs they were experimenting with and they were rolling them all around in the mud to see which would hold up well under combat conditions.The AK-47 was the design that emerged from this Darwinian design process.

                The M-16 has more moving parts, they fit together closely and, critically, the Armalite company never did the kind of field-testing that the Soviet design bureau did. The GIs sent to Vietnam did the field-testing, and when the reports came back that there were problems, the company and the Army were slow to respond. One of the biggest issues is that the M-16 was sent to wet, humid Vietnam without chroming the barrel to protect it against rust. Eventually they worked a lot of the kinks out, but a lot of GIs died in the process. There's an excerpt from the book talking about this you can read online http://www.esquire.com/features/ak-47-history-1110-3 [esquire.com].

                I think the comparison of this oxygen system to the premature rollout of the M-16 is a valid one. In both cases, contractors fielded a system before it was ready, jeopardizing people's lives. And given the cost of the F-22, I think the design philosophy behind the AK-47 is also worth talking about. The Soviet approach was to create a gun that had several key features- it was lightweight, it had a rapid rate of fire, it was cheap enough to produce in vast numbers, and it was simple and rugged enough that it didn't require a lot of training and maintenance to use. They emphasized quantity over quality. An enemy with accurate weapons and superior training could be overcome if you just rounded up a whole bunch of peasants and gave every one of them a gun that shot 600 rounds per minute. And all you have to do is look at the American experience in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to see that there's a lot to this philosophy. Because of planes like the F-22, nobody can possibly defeat the U.S. in a head-to-head contest for air superiority, but that doesn't guarantee victory any more than it did in Vietnam or Afghanistan.

                • by Firethorn (177587)

                  the Armalite company never did the kind of field-testing that the Soviet design bureau did.

                  I want to defend the Armalite Comany a touch here - The army didn't help matters. They sabotoged the testing trials; deleted the chrome barrel and chamber that the prototype had, switched from the low-fouling cylinder shaped powder to stockpiled, cheaper ball powder, and deleted the cleaning kit designed to be stored in the buttstock - not even issuing cleaning kits.

                  An enemy with accurate weapons and superior training could be overcome if you just rounded up a whole bunch of peasants and gave every one of them a gun that shot 600 rounds per minute.

                  As shown in Korea and Vietnam, doing so was only at enourmous human cost, and as the USA developed it's combined weapons doctrine, only got mo

            • It should be noted a AK-47 uses a much larger round then a M-4. Comparing a AK-47 to a M14 would be more accurate. The counterpart to a M-4 would be a AK-74.
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by danversj (2585159)
              So there is a grain of truth to the so-called "Bad Guy Marksmanship myth"?
          • No one is talking about phasing out the A-10, they are spending billions of dollars right now hanging new wings on 250 examples to keep it flying for the next 25 years...

            The B-52 is a notable bomb truck, but it certainly cant haul twice the load of a B-2 - its more like a third more, and it requires more support structure to carry that payload the same distance as the B-2. The B-51 also can't be used on first day strikes these days due to the absolutely huge radar signature it has - if the Vietnamese could

          • Yuh... and what happens when we aren't fighting technologically crippled countries hiding in holes?

            I don't even know why we're still there, but that's a completely different rant. Any war that we actually need to fight will need the tech we have.
          • by flyingsquid (813711) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @07:40PM (#40881395)

            I think the point is that the benefits of these beasts don't outweigh their finickiness. We didn't need an M-16. An AK-47 would do the job. And we don't need an F-22 because there's not even a job for it currently.

            The problem is that the extraordinary sophistication of modern combat aircraft means a longer design cycle. Here's some numbers from Wikipedia: The P-51 Mustang is widely regarded as one of the best planes of WWII, and it took just four years, 1938-1942, to go from concept to combat. The F-4 Phantom II took seven years, 1953-1960, to go from initial designs to entering service. The F-15 takes 11 years, 1965-1976, to enter service. The F-22 takes 24 years, 1981-2005. Maybe you could shorten that cycle a bit with better project management and less bureaucracy, but the trend isn't specific to the U.S. The Soviet Yak-3 goes from concept to service in 3 years (!), 1941-1944, but the Mig-29 takes 11 years, 1971-1983. Development of Russia's fifth-generation fighter, the Pak-Fa, begins in the late 1980s and it should enter service in 2015-2016.

            The end result? The F-22 is an anachronism. It's something out of a time warp, a throwback to an era that's long past. Sort of the Austin Powers of fighter jets. First, it's designed to deal with a radically different strategic picture. In 1981, when design began on the F-22, the major threat was a large, sophisticated, Soviet military. Now the real threat is a guerrilla with an AK-47 and an IED. Conflict with an advanced nation like Russia or China isn't impossible, but it's unlikely. Second, the technological picture has changed as well. In 1981 the cutting edge in computing was a 1MHZ Apple II with 48k of memory; now computing hardware and software have advanced to the point where an onboard computer can take off, fly, and land the plane, so the pilot is increasingly redundant. The F-22 is an expensive, obsolete solution to a problem that no longer exists.

            Fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35 are an expensive throwback. We've seen what the Predator can do, and it's been revealing. If you're familiar with military history you probably know about the 1921 battleship bombing trials. That was when bombs dropped by aircraft were used to destroy a dreadnought; it signalled that the era of battleships was over and that future naval battles would be conducted by and decided by air power; it signalled the rise of the carrier. We're seeing something similar now, with Predator UAVs being armed with Hellfire and Stinger missiles and used for precision ground attacks, close-air-support, and air-to-air. It's only a matter of time before UAVs take over missions traditionally left to manned aircraft. So instead of trying to refight the Cold War, a more realistic plan would be to maintain air superiority against Russia and China by upgrading fourth-generation aircraft like the F-15 and F-16 over the next decade, while leapfrogging past fifth-generation fighters to sixth-generation fighters- unmanned fighters. Eliminating the pilot isn't without it's issues (as the loss of the RQ-170 Sentinel over Iran shows), but eliminating the pilot and cockpit makes for a lighter, more streamlined aircraft which improves speed and range. Survivability also becomes less of an issue, so you don't need as many backups, the airframe doesn't have to be as tough, and stealthiness is less of an issue. Again, that means longer range and better speed. Eliminating the pilot and all the systems associated with his survival also means a cheaper aircraft, and one that takes less time to develop. Most importantly, without a pilot to worry about, you can carry out risky missions without worrying about the political implications of having a pilot shot down in Iran or the tribal areas of Pakistan.

          • The AK-47 is great if you just want to kill a bunch of people but that would be terrible if you're an American soldier in Iraq trying to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties during urban combat. The M-16 is very accurate compared to the AK-47. The lighter round of the M-16 means the gun barely kicks. The accuracy of follow-on rounds are very good. The AK-47 jumps around throwing a heavy round. Sure, it looks good if you want to fire an AK-47 on full auto in a movie or during a celebration but the dude with

          • by evilviper (135110)

            Another great example would be the B-2, which can't fly a useful number of sorties because it has to be based on the other side of the world from its targets because of its finicky maintenance demands. We were better served in Iraq by the B-52 flying 18-wheeler from the 50s, which can haul twice the payload of the B-2 and was operated from in-theater bases as well as from US bases.

            The B-52 may as well be a Zeppelin... It's huge, slow, obvious, and incredibly easy to shoot down. You use it ONLY after you'v

      • It says that the Americans put on their thinking caps and came up with a solution to a very difficult problem, in the best tradition of their kind.

        Let me guess, your next example is going to be the old saw about the American vs. Soviet space programs, and how the Americans spent millions on a pen while the Soviets used a pencil [snopes.com]. The AK vs. M-16 debate has been had a million times. Think of a slider bar with "reliability" on one side and "accuracy" on the other. Then, think about each nation's militarie

      • by sgt_doom (655561)
        Thank you. One is reminded that it was Eisenhower (who whined about that there "military-industrial-complex" wussing out and removing the "congressional" part from the phrase) who was responsible for multiple appointments of Nelson Rockefeller to his administration --- the very same Rockefeller who made radical changes to various governmental organizations and institutions, e.g., Ex-Im Bank (altering its ruling 4-person management to only one person), making it easier to compromise them in the interests of
      • by Aighearach (97333)

        Put on your big boy pants. The REAL story here is if an improper lube can cause a system to fail, what does that say about modern American aircraft design?

        I don't care how big your boy-pants are, if you don't know the importance of proper lube in a mechanical system... are you sure you're technical enough for slashdot? You can't even properly operate hot grits without the right lube.

        • Having to choose between 50 different lubs to maintain an addmiteddly complicated system means I can't post on slachdot? "And surely you're not that stupid about real-life combat situations" asks the jarface ('91, Iraq.)
      • The M-16 and the AK-47 are different tools for different military training regimes. America trains its infantry to fire aimed shots at discrete targets. Even in a crazy firefight, the American soldier is trained to shoot only at hostile targets such as armed men and muzzle flashes. The ethos of aimed shots taken by highly-trained infantrymen pervades to the weapon. The most common version of the M-16 issued to infantry does not fire automatically; soldiers take single shots at discrete targets. Thus, the M-

        • by tftp (111690)

          I fully agree about different purposes. Hitting a human figure at 500 meters requires a bipod and a telescopic sight. Iron sights will not do - human eyesight is just not that good, especially when you are talking about grunts and not about elite snipers.

          As a point of reference, I was trained to use AKM. We never shot full-auto. The weapon did not have an automatic cutoff, so we had to be easy on the trigger. Longer distance shots were performed in semi-auto mode. We shot at targets 200 meters away (a st

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nighthawk243 (2557486)
      I once used the wrong lubricant. My wife still hasn't let me live that one down.
      • by gmhowell (26755)

        I once used the wrong lubricant. My wife still hasn't let me live that one down.

        Weird. She's so excited to see me that I've never had to use any lubricant on her.

  • by sco08y (615665) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:28AM (#40877447)

    An F-16 pilot said the Air Force is either “incompetent for missing this until now,” or “dishonest and trying to sweep something under the rug.”

    Usually a reporter throws out dozens of quotes until she finds one like this that is sensational.

    A quote like, "yeah, this is a really hard engineering problem to solve, and every time you go up and run a test flight it's expensive and dangerous," just wouldn't get printed because it's not news.

    • by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:55AM (#40877571)

      wouldn't get printed because it's not news.

      It's plenty newsworthy, it's just not sensational enough for our retarded "If it bleeds, it leads" type 'news' here in America.

      • by AngryDeuce (2205124) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @11:44AM (#40877811)

        I really miss the old days when they just reported the news factually and let people make up their own minds, rather then the "news as a product that must be tailored for optimal consumption" corporate-whore mentality that we're stuck with today.

        It's not a new phenomenon (William Randolph Hearst was doing the same shit a century ago) but it's certainly become totally pervasive these days...

        • I miss the days when trending twitter comments weren't considered "news" by mainstream outlets.

          I think we're both out of luck.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I miss the days when trending twitter comments weren't considered "news" by mainstream outlets.

            I miss the days when the wire service news had more content than the twitter comments.

        • I really miss the old days when they just reported the news factually...

          I'm sorry, *which* "good old days" were these?

          Perhaps you're referring to the days of Cronkite or before? You are of the "get off my lawn" era? I somehow doubt you are of that vintage, because if you were, you would know that the news-media has always had a heavy bias towards whatever the current power structure was. History proves this.

          Unsupportable anecdotes aside, you are referring to something that has never existed.

        • by Aighearach (97333)

          I really miss the old days when they just reported the news factually and let people make up their own minds

          Ah yes, childhood... the innocence of ignorance, before we discovered everybody was full of it.

        • ...the old days when they just reported the news factually and let people make up their own minds

          Pics or it didn't happen.

  • F-16 Viper? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Henriok (6762) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:33AM (#40877477)
    It's unusual to have the F-16 referred to as Viper in articles like this. I had to look it up and indeed, it seems to be a common and old nickname for it. I think it suits the aircraft better than the "Fighting Falcon".. I never understood why they had to put the "Fighting" in the name.. wasn't Falcon enough?
    • by Trepidity (597)

      This article [f-16.net] claims that part of the reason for the "Fighting Falcon" rather than "Falcon" name was to avoid being named too similarly to the Dassault Falcon [wikipedia.org].

    • That's OK - just call it the Lawn Dart and everyone will know what you're talking about [f-16.net]. The joke comes out of the fact that the F-16 is a single engine airplane and has all fly-by-wire flight controls without manual backup. Combine that ALSO with the fact that a lot of F-16s were powered by the Pratt F-100-PW-220 engine, which has had a reputation for being not exactly the most reliable motor. This has led to a lot of people needing to bail out of the jet for engine problems -- failure, fire, bird ingesti

    • Viper comes from "Colonial Viper" (that is, from Battlestar Galactica - the first one). This was because the advanced nature of the F-16 when it came out lead to comparisons with the starship/fighter. Everyone uses "Viper" apart from official statements from the USAF, who have to use the long name (even though everyone in the USAF itself appears to use the unofficial "Viper").
  • by Glock27 (446276) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:34AM (#40877483)

    The F-22 production line should be restarted, with limited exports allowed to Japan and Australia. Also, some portion (probably about 1/4) of F-35 production should be replaced by F-22 production.

    The F-22 is operational now, and completely wipes the F-35 on at least two fronts - supercruise and all-aspect stealth. It also has a worthy air-to-ground role, carrying up to four small diameter bombs or a single 1,000 lb JDAM per weapon bay. Finally, with two engines it has a margin of safety that the F-35 can't match.

    With F-35 costs spiraling out of control, the F-22 is looking to be quite a bargain at around the same cost per airframe.

    • by khallow (566160) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:41AM (#40877509)
      What would be the point? All the profit was in developing the F-22 not building it. F-35 is where it's at now.
    • Agreed.
    • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @12:10PM (#40877985)

      And meanwhile the after action reports from the conflicts fought in the last 25 years have all said the same thing: need more A-10's and B-52's.

      It still seems to me that the best course of action would have been to invest a little in an update of the F-15 20 years ago and kept it in production a little longer similiar to what the Navy did with the F-18 Super Hornet. (I think R&D for that was around $200M).

      The only problem with the F-15's is not that it's being out classed even today as it is the number of flight hours on the existing airframes.

      • by TubeSteak (669689) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @01:28PM (#40878445) Journal

        The only problem with the F-15's is not that it's being out classed even today as it is the number of flight hours on the existing airframes.

        Boeing's F-15 production line is still up and running.
        A few years ago, they unvieled the F-15 SE (Silent Eagle) [wikipedia.org] for ~$100 million
        It has updated avionics and a stealthier aspect + export legal stealth coating that is good against air-to-air radar.
        The current crop of F-15C/E airplanes is also getting some updated radar and avionics, but not a full overhaul.

        /Boeing is also offering F-18 variants for ~$50 million each.

      • Those conflicts all involved fighting technologically outdated countries operating with tech based around the same time period as those aircraft. Wars we never need to fight and shouldn't have started.

        When we fight a war we NEED to, then it will become apparently flying a giant blimp over the target and dropping craptons of bombs wont work cause it'll get shot down.
    • The F-22 production line should be restarted, with limited exports allowed to Japan and Australia. Also, some portion (probably about 1/4) of F-35 production should be replaced by F-22 production.

      Absolutely not. Neither the F-22 nor the F-35 are a "bargain" at close to a quarter billion dollars apiece, flyaway. As an aviation writer put it 30 years ago, "building a fighter with all the electronics of the starship Enterprise will do you no good if you can only afford two of them". We're at that point, budget-wise. We need a fighter that we can affordably build in quantity, or it's useless. Admiral Greenert was right. It's time to ditch the luxury car [usni.org] aircraft acquisition idea and go to flexible, cheaper "trucks" that we can build relatively quickly and in higher quantities. And as there is no proof that either the Russian Pak-Fa nor the Chinese J-20 are anything other technology demonstrators or outright Potemkin frauds to convince the West that "hey, we can do stealth too", we should probably just continue to build teen-series fighter with AESA radars. Nothing that the Russians or Chinese have that are in actual production are any better.

      • by durdur (252098)

        Agree. F-35 program is a nightmare of cost overruns. And restarting the F-22 would be very expensive, too. When will we wake up and realize we've given a blank check to the military?

        • by Sollord (888521)

          This is true it would add about $70-80million to the fly-away cost of each new F-22 which would be around $240million each if we ordered 75 more but that goes down with each extra jet ordered but hey we can just buy them cheaper F-35s at $207mil a pop though that price seems to keep going up and up... was only supposed to be $133mil 2 years ago

      • by Loki_1929 (550940)

        Neither the F-22 nor the F-35 are a "bargain" at close to a quarter billion dollars apiece, flyaway.

        Ahem, the F-22's flyaway cost is $150 Million. 150 is not "close" to 250. Further, if you streamline the F-22 production chain such that it isn't spread all over the country to force politicians to vote for its funding (or cut off jobs to their own people), it'll be closer to $125 Million flyaway cost.

        By all means, take all the money from the F-35 program and feed it into an overhauled and streamlined F-22 production line to pump out as many air dominance aircraft as that'll get us. That buys us complete co

      • by Sollord (888521)

        The fly away cost of an F-22 is $170million while the current and ever increasing fly away cost of an F-35A is $207.6 million. The R&D cost of the program adds $242million but that's R&D money that was already spent over the last 20 plus years. The F-22 cost $170million to physically build but people love to throw out the $400million+ figure with all sunk costs that's already been paid out. If we had built 400 of them it would of spread the $34billion dollars R&D costs out more and dropped it

      • by subreality (157447) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @08:08PM (#40881575)

        Trucks vs luxury cars doesn't really capture it though. Top notch stealth is a huge force multiplier. Two F-22s can take on several dozen non-stealth fighters: the conventionals swarm around not finding anything to shoot at while the F-22s pick them off one by one. It's really that dramatic of a difference.

        In limited-scale wars, the F-22 is just overwhelmingly better even in small numbers. In a protracted world war things would be different: eventually the other guys would take them out through blind luck, or a significant portion of the small fleet would be down for maintenance; then the "lots of cheap fighters" strategy wins (and the US still wins, since it still has tousands of cheap F-15s, F-16s, and to a lesser degree F/A-18s). The thing is that every war fought in the last 50 years has been the former sort where having a small number of F-22s IS the better plan, and I don't see anything on the horizon that will change it.

    • by Loki_1929 (550940) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:30PM (#40879395) Journal

      I agree with you about restarting the production lines of the F-22, but I can't disagree enough regarding exports. The F-22 represents 20+ years of the best R&D money can buy. Every part of that plane is filled with advanced tools that make it the most lethal air-to-air combat machine in the history of the world. I'm of the opinion that they shouldn't even as-yet be admitting the thing exists, let alone showing it off at airshows. While we don't have the complete picture, there's been enough public information leaked about the plane that even amateur fighter junkies have a fairly solid understanding of its capabilities. That means intelligence agencies and foreign militaries likely have an even better understanding of it. Does that mean they can then field planes to challenge it? Not in the next 20 years; no. At least not without pouring hundreds of billions into R&D in a massively accelerated program.

      What would allow them to jump ahead in the R&D process cheaply? Getting in the cockpit, getting trained maintenance crew members to turn, etc. In the US, we have a massive counter-intelligence infrastructure capable of limiting that kind of risk. Not eliminating it, but minimizing it. If we start shipping this aircraft to other nations (even our best allies), we open the door to a Russia or a China to get their hands on exactly what they need to build an almost-as-good fighter in half the time. They'll not only use them to deter the US from threatening their interests around the world (because realistically, we aren't attacking each other directly, but countries like Georgia and Taiwan provide perfect examples of where this would come into play), but they'd also sell them to a lot of countries who would be happy to challenge the US directly (like Iran, North Korea, etc). That's just far, far too much of a risk to take.

      The US military is counting on the F-22 (with upgrades along the way) to completely dominate the skies anywhere and everywhere in the world for the next 20-30 years. If someone else gets their hands on enough information to cut their R&D time and expense in half and build something that's nearly as capable, we've lost a massive air advantage. You cannot win a modern war militarily without control of the air. Right now, the F-22 gives us that hands-down. With the F-22, no country on Earth could field aircraft in any skies on Earth; including over their own soil. You really cannot underestimate what kind of deterrent that is to those who'd like to see our power balanced or who would like to take by force those who we protect.

      So yes, the production line should be started by taking all future monies out of the F-35 program, but with one change: the entire production process should be completely overhauled to streamline it. When the F-22 production was begun, a political calculation was made to spread the program to as many states and districts as possible so that most politicians in Congress would have to choose between voting to fund the project and cutting off money and jobs to their own constituents. That drove up the cost of building the plane significantly (I've seen figures as high as $30 million per plane). By consolidating and streamlining the process, we'll be able to build many more F-22s with a lot less money.

      I'd also note that it would be a huge mistake to try and add any significant ground attack capability to the plane. Our most successful aircraft do one job and do it well. The F-15 rules the skies. It does so wherever it goes and it's done beautifully. It kills planes. It's not great at doing a ton of ground attacking, but it doesn't need to. We have bombers hitting bombable targets and for moving targets we have another hugely specialized aircraft: the A-10. The A-10 is the pinnacle of anti-vehicle attack aircraft. You'd never fly A-10s in against enemy aircraft because that's not its job. The F-15s clear the skies and the A-10s clear the mobile ground targets. The F-22 should be a simple drop-in replacement for the aging F-15. The A-10 still does a f

      • I agree with your post aside from eliminating air to ground from the F-22. The F-15 Strike Eagle has been a great air-to-ground attack plane that has been proven in combat. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, it provided "close air support" to soldiers in combat by dropping JDAMs on targets. The high performance of the F-15 made it a good fit for its role as a deep strike attack plane. It can dash to where its needed and deliver bombs accurately. The F-22 can do the same with the Small Diameter Bomb without com

        • by Loki_1929 (550940)

          I never said I wanted to completely eliminate it; merely that it shouldn't be a focus of the plane. "it would be a huge mistake to try and add any significant ground attack capability to the plane". In other words, sure, keep the Small Diameter Bomb capability as long as it isn't costing you an inch in the air dominance role. However, adding a significant (read: F-16 level Air-to-Ground attack capability) ground attack capability would require compromises like what we see in the F-35 (aka "The Flying Shitbo

      • The US military is counting on the F-22 (with upgrades along the way) to completely dominate the skies anywhere and everywhere in the world for the next 20-30 years.

        Couple issues here. First, the U.S. currently has air superiority and isn't in danger of losing it anytime soon. The F-15 can shoot down anything flying, and the other thing is that the U.S. has a lot of other capabilities that go into maintaining air superiority- AWACs planes, refuelling capabilities, air bases situated around the world, carriers, and so forth. It's not enough to build a fifth-generation plane without the technology and infrastructure to wage an air war. Even if the Chinese J-20 or the Rus

        • You can't have both 'The F-15 can shoot down anything flying' AND 'the F-22 and F-35 are going to be obsolete soon enough'.

          The problem is that it's getting to the point that the F-15 isn't clearly superior to everything in other country's hands. It's actually inferior in many ways, and the airframe was getting to the point that designing a new one is more cost effective than updating. Thus the F-22.

          Getting into Military theory - you don't necessarily have a military in order to use it. In many cases the

        • by Loki_1929 (550940)

          1. I'm far less worried about China or Russia than I am about their customers. We may have disputes over Georgia (with Russia) and Taiwan (with China), but you're right that MAD and economic factors generally keep us from getting into too much of a fight. However, both of those countries regularly sell their stuff directly to our enemies. They do so not because they need the cash but because those countries then work as a proxy; draining our resources as we struggle to maintain the kind of dominance in conf

    • by hey! (33014)

      Er... wouldn't you make the decision to restart the line based, not on how much we like the aircraft, but how many we need?

    • Japan will not get the F-22, since their Naval college leaked details of the Aegis system to China (a Chinese woman married a Japanese man and took a CD that the Japanese had made about Aegis - which they shouldn't have done). The US (Congress?) said that Japan won't get the F-22. On the other hand they put forward that Australia would be offered it (the Aussies are extremely 'tight lipped' with military aircraft details and manuals).

  • How many deaths can be attributed to this problem?

    The words fatal and death are not in the article.

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Just one, Air Force Capt. Jeffrey Haney, who crashed in Alaska in 2010. Of course that crash mightn't have the same underlying cause, but it was due to the pilot's oxygen supply failing.

    • by Loki_1929 (550940)

      One known death associated with this issue.

      Next, please look up the number of deaths associated with the F-16 potential wire chaffing problem (hint: dozens). Then, please look up deaths associated with all the various issues of the F-4 (hint: more). Then look up the deaths associated with design flaws in every combat aircraft ever produced.

      Result: The F-22 is possibly the safest and most well-designed (nearly flawless) aircraft developed for combat in the history of air combat aircraft. It just so happens t

      • Wire chafing is an aging aircraft issue. The F-22 isn't old enough to encounter the problem. When the first F-22s are 10, 15, 20+ years old, then we'll see if the wire routing through the airframe manages to avoid chafing issues. Personally I have my doubts, having worked for an aircraft wire testing company for 6 years. There are reasons the F-16 has chafing problems, and those reasons are no less relevant to the F-22. Simply put, these are tiny planes. Their wire bundles are jammed into the tiniest

        • by Loki_1929 (550940)

          No, wire chaffing is a design problem when it's happening on brand new planes during flight that are just rolling off the assembly line. I was referencing a very specific issue with the F-16 and its potential wire chaffing problem that killed dozens of pilots. The first fly-by-wire plane had a serious and known (by both General Dynamics and the US military, but not by pilots or their families) problem with protruding screws sawing into a major wiring harness and shorting primary systems. General Dynamics wa

  • Otherwise why was ground crew supposedly affected as well? I remember reading something about that (can't remember where)

    • by Loki_1929 (550940) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:42PM (#40879473) Journal

      There were a handful of reports of some ground crew members experiencing some similar symptoms. However, any psychologist will tell you that could very easily be psychosomatic response to a perception that something about the aircraft causes those kinds of symptoms. If it were widely reported that the A-10 were giving the pilots skin cancer, the ground crews would see members freaking out over every bump, blister, rash, and zit they found for months afterwards.

      I'm not saying they've 100% nailed this problem and case-closed. I'm only saying that the most logical thing to do is sit back in a wait-and-see mode until we find out whether pilots continue experiencing symptoms during flight. If pilots are still blacking out at (or close to) the rates from before the 'fix', then we have no actual fix. If pilots are pretty much all ok after this, then the ground crew reports are almost certainly unrelated to this particular issue.

  • a problem that has eluded Air Force engineers and scientists for four years has left some Air Force pilots skeptical that the USAF has solved the problem.

    Wouldn't this be Lockheed Martin's problem? I mean, isn't there something in the aircraft spec that says pilots should be able to breath? So if they can't, you send it back and get it fixed. Just like a Toyota with a stuck accelerator.

    Yeah, I know. Its a complex problem and the failure is somewhat subjective (pilot reports). Plus most DoD contractors have larger legal staffs than engineering, so warranty claims and associated costs can be deflected for years.

    • Re:Whose problem? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Loki_1929 (550940) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @03:48PM (#40879509) Journal

      Building weapons of war works a little differently than building a Prius. Once the government accepts a contractors product as meeting the specifications requested, and so long as the contractor does not conceal relevant information from the government, it's nearly impossible to hold the contractor liable for defects in the design. Basically, we're asking Lockheed Martin to design and build the most complex flying machine ever imagined by mankind. It wouldn't be possible - let alone financially feasible - to expect each and every single aspect of the product to be perfect from day one, nor would it be viable to expect Lockheed to go back and find, diagnose, and fix every single problem in every single aircraft produced. It'd put military contractors out of business to do so (and that isn't fixing your planes either).

      Now I completely agree that we should be doing a whole lot more to fix the issues of cost overruns without sacrificing quality control, but holding them to your average consumer product warranty isn't the answer. We'll end up with nobody left to build any of this stuff and nobody else willing to try.

      • by PPH (736903)

        Basically, we're asking Lockheed Martin to design and build the most complex flying machine ever imagined by mankind.

        Not really. Commercial aircraft are more complex. And that is aggravated by the multitude of customers, each wanting their own configurations plus the combination of customer and regulatory requirements. Trust me. I worked for Boeing commercial and every attempt to introduce military style manufacturing, configuration control and QA fell flat on its face.

        And yet, deliver a commercial aircraft where the passengers (or worse yet, flight crew) has breathing problems and the FAA will readily ground the entire

        • by Loki_1929 (550940)

          When Boeing's commercial aircraft customers start demanding aircraft that can cruise at 1,220mph, fly to 65,000ft, launch precision weapons from internal bays, be nearly invisible to radar, use thrust vectoring to achieve ridiculous maneuverability (J-turn, Pugachev's Cobra, the Kulbit, etc), refuel mid-flight, and be able to land safely after being shot up with bullets during combat, I'll buy that commercial aircraft are as complex. Until then, commercial aircraft are just scaled-up versions with a whole l

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