Congress Orders Military To Fix F-35 Breathing Issues


Congress has ordered the Department of Defense to fix an issue with the F-35 breathing system that has pilots alternately gasping for air or awash in pure oxygen. As part of the 2022 appropriations for the military, the House Armed Services Committee has told the military to take action on a NASA study that found the high-tech aircraft’s breathing system faulty. “Investigate, assess and implement corrective actions for the F-35 breathing system initially noted by the NASA’s Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) Technical Assessment Report on the F-35 pilot breathing system,” a summary of the bill states.

The breathing system on the plane is supposed to match air delivery to the breathing demands of the pilots but it doesn’t work according to NASA’s study, which put two of the jets through a series of maneuvers while measuring the airflow. “The F-35 breathing system noticeably discourages normal breathing function via high-pressure, pressure surges, and hyperoxia,” the NASA report said. “At times, the pilot would demand oxygen and got nothing, and at times they received too much. Both F-35 jets exhibited the same behaviors and data is consistent between the two jets and consistent with pilot observations.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Breathing is somewhat important.

    Incredible that it takes the sorry congress to tell the military that their pilots need to be able to breathe.

  2. Maybe we need to put them in touch with the Aithre folks at Oshkosh? Either that, or maybe try not to reinvent breathing.

  3. This is a well-known problem that has plagued the F-35 for years. It is ridiculous that Congress has to tell Lockheed and the Air Force to fix the problem. Maybe someone should cut off air to Lockheed’s top executives and some Air Force brass to get them motivated.

  4. This situation has a strong smell of something having been fixed that was not broken. Any similar issues with F-15? F-16? And is there no going back to a functional system because “if it’s new it must be improved”? I seem to recall reading about a problem with F/A 18 oxygen systems. Was that resolved?

  5. The fact this has gone on for so long without resolution indicates there is some basic design problem that may require full system re-engineering & replacement. Obviously the past “fixes” haven’t.