The Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin a $19 million contract to install backup systems into existing F-22 Raptor fighter jets that bypass otherwise unresolved problems with the aircraft. Air Force officials are still stymied by reports from pilots who say they have suffered hypoxia-like symptoms while flying the jet. After months-long failed attempts to source the problem the Air Force will now be paying Lockheed, the jet's original manufacturer, to install automatic backup oxygen systems to bypass the original oxygen systems, if necessary. But the contract won't cover all of the jets.
Lockheed's new $19 million contract covers work on 40 F-22s. The Air Force paid about $143 million per copy and has more than 180 of them. The Government Accountability Office has estimated the cost per individual Raptor at $412 million when research, development, and upgrades are considered. That would put the overall cost just under $75 billion. The jets were grounded for four months ending last September while the Air Force attempted to source the problem. Since returning to service, at least 11 more cases have been recorded involving pilots who said they experienced hypoxia-like symptoms while flying the jet. Installation of the new backup oxygen system will begin after it is flight tested, this year. The Air Force is still investigating the original problem and is reportedly working with two theories: either the pilots aren't always getting enough oxygen, or their oxygen is being polluted with toxins.