Air Force Grounds F-22

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Stars And Stripes reported Friday that all 137 F-22 Raptors have been grounded over concerns about the aircraft's oxygen system that may stem in part from a November fatal crash in Alaska. Following the November crash, the stealthy fighter jet has been restricted to altitudes of 25,000 and below. Officials say the restriction is due to recent reports of oxygen system malfunctions and concerns that pilots could be deprived of oxygen during flight at altitude, causing them to black out. At this time it is not clear how long the jets will be offline because currently there is no solution to the problem. The move has been called "temporary." Air Force officials are using the time to investigate potential sources of oxygen system malfunctions on the fighters. Critics of the jet are using the time for other purposes.

The order to ground the jets came from General William Fraser, commander of Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, Va. Critics note that the F-22 program has cost nearly $80 billion and the jet has never seen combat. The Raptor has not been listed among aircraft participating in the Libyan campaign and has not been used in any conflict since it earned combat-ready status in December 2005. The jet program lost funding in 2009 when Congress voted to halt orders at 187 aircraft, not all of which have yet been delivered. The F-22 is an air superiority fighter designed to dominate when pitted against other fighter aircraft. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the aircraft "does not make much sense anyplace else in the spectrum of conflict," but that it is a "silver-bullet solution" for very specific potential scenarios.