February 28, 2007 (by Lieven Dewitte) - The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday said it is fixing technological glitches in roughly 87 F-22 fighters after several aircraft computer systems were disabled earlier this month during a test flight.
The first of 12 F-22 Raptors lands for a brief layover Feb. 7 at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. The F-22s and more than 250 Airmen from the 27th FS at Langley AFB, Virginia, are bound for Kadena Air Base, Japan, for the aircaft's first overseas operational deployment. Seen here is Raptor #03-4049. [USAF photo by TSgt Shane A. Cuomo]
The six Raptors were participating in an inaugural 12-hour flight from Hawaii to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan on Feb. 10 when a "navigation anomaly" maimed several computer systems on the aircraft, an Air Force colonel said.
The computer glitch, which occurred as aircraft crossed the International Date Line, crippled navigation systems and hindered communications.
One pilot was able to contact contractor Lockheed Martin to troubleshoot the error during the flight, the Air Force said. Several pilots attempted to reboot the system with no success.
Luckily for the Raptors, there were no weather issues that day so visibility was not a problem which meant that with their refueling tankers as guide dogs, they were able to safely return to Hawaii.
"They needed help. Had they gotten separated from their tankers or had the weather been bad, they had no attitude reference. They had no communications or navigation," said Retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. "They would have turned around and probably could have found the Hawaiian Islands. But if the weather had been bad on approach, there could have been real trouble."
F-22 engineers and maintainers were able to locate the problem within hours and fixed the glitch in a matter of days on the aircraft. After successful testing, the aircraft continued their planned first overseas deployment to Kadena.
It was a computer glitch in the approximately 1.7 million lines of code. Somebody makes an error in a couple lines of the code and everything goes.
It is common for pilots to experience operational problems during initial deployments and there are no plans to conduct further testing on the F-22 Raptor.
The Raptor, with a price tags of roughly $70 billion including development costs, has endured periodic delays and political attacks. Initial plans called for 750, but only 183 are now slated to be built under the proposed 2007 fiscal defense budget.