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newsherald.com wrote:F-16 co-designer blames stealth ‘skin' for F-22 problems
June 19, 2012 05:29:36 PM
RANDAL YAKEY / News Herald Writer
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE — A man who helped design the F-16 says the problem that grounded the F-22 for several months last year isn’t the oxygen system.
Pierre Sprey, who helped develop the A-10 and F-16 jets, said he believes the glues that hold the F-22 stealth “skin” in place is emanating chemicals that are making the pilots sick.
According to Sprey, the Air Force has overlooked, or ignored, the potential stealth skin problems because it has not been able to test successfully for adhesive toxins in the pilot’s bloodstream. He said the Air Force doesn’t talk about the stealth adhesives because the chemical makeup of the compounds that make up the stealth skin are considered “classified information.”
The Air Force confirmed the stealth adhesive compound used in the F-22 is classified material and exclusive to the F-22, but it has downplayed Sprey’s accusations, saying the adhesives were included in a recent investigation into problems impacting F-22 pilots.
“We are aware of the theory regarding stealth coatings and other chemicals used in the production and maintenance of the F-22, and that has been rolled into our analysis,” said Heidi Davis, an Air Force spokeswoman.
Sprey said the reason the Air Force doesn’t want to reveal any problems with the adhesives’ coatings is it would severely impact the F-22, each of which cost more than $412 million, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Dealing with the F-22’s glues, which provide the F-22 its stealth, would mean a “major rebuild of the airplane,” Sprey said.
“The F-22 and the F-35 are three-fourths of the Air Force budget, and that is what is at stake,” he said.
The 170 F-22 jets are stationed at six U.S. bases, including Tyndall Air Force Base, where F-22 pilots are trained.
Sprey said when the F-22 reaches speeds above Mach 1.6, which is about 1,200 miles and hour at sea level, the adhesive sets off gases that can cause the same symptoms of dizziness that have plagued the F-22 pilots. When the F-22 is in for repairs to its “stealth coating,” the adhesive is re-spread across the plane.
“The adhesive has to be reapplied,” Sprey said. “When it is, it increases the risk to the pilots.”
According to Sprey, the pilot is exposed to diisocyanates, which are found within the polyurethane glues that comprise the stealth coatings, at a number of times because the adhesives are reapplied in the upkeep of the plane. Sprey said diisocyanates are well known as an industrial hazard that can cause both severe lung and neurologic problems.
But, Davis said Sprey’s theory cannot be considered a leading line of inquiry at this point because it would need to be reconciled with contrary evidence related to the absence of toxins in life-support system components, cockpit air samples, or post-incident pilot blood samples.
Sprey vehemently disagreed.
He said polyurethanes are used in the Lockheed Martin stealth coatings, which also contain diisoycanates, and are one among several potential sources of poisoning of pilots that Lockheed and the Air Force should have been testing for toxicity long before they flew the first F-22. The Air Force said diisoycanates have not registered in the blood of F-22 pilots.
Lockheed Martin declined to comment for this report.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, after being inhaled most of these toxins react with the lungs and/or the blood very quickly, meaning by the time a pilot landed and had his blood sample drawn, the toxin would have disappeared.
Also, there’s the problem of whether the blood measurement protocols themselves are sensitive enough to detect the sub-part-per-million concentrations known to be toxic, according to the agency.
The agency did note the exposure by pilots should be minimal because the pilots most likely would be exposed beyond the manufacturing process. But, as Sprey noted, the continual use of the product during the repairs of the plane could have an impact in the pilot.
“They are constantly reapplying this stuff,” Sprey said.
Dina Rasor, of the Bauman Rasor Group Inc., a team of investigators dealing in federal fraud, has been investigating military issues and fraud for decades. She said there is a culture in the military that has a “circle-the-wagons” mentality when it comes to their stealth fighter, the F-22.
She also said Lockheed Martin is one of only a few contractors left who produce such aircraft and the Defense Department is reluctant to penalize the contractor.
“It is almost as if they are married,” she said.
Rasor said since the contractors, in this case Lockheed Martin, have such a close relationship with the Defense Department, no single person in the military will challenge them.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., recently released information obtained from the Air Force that said pilots had experienced about 26 incidents of apparent oxygen deprivation per 100,000 flight hours — a rate at least 10 times higher than for any other Air Force aircraft. The Air Force had said there was less than half that number.
Who is Pierre Sprey?
Pierre Sprey was a consultant for Grumman Aircraft’s research department from 1958 to 1965, and then joined Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s “whiz kids” in the Pentagon. In 1967, he teamed with Air Force Col. John Boyd and collaborated on the design of the F-16 air-to-air fighter.
Sprey headed up the technical side of the Air Force’s concept design team for the A-10 close support fighter. He also served as special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for systems analysis during the Johnson and Nixon administrations.
After leaving the Pentagon in the 1970s, he continued to consult for the government on fighter jets and anti-tank weaponry. He also was part of the Congressional Military Reform Caucus, which concentrated on military reform legislation.
Sprey recently worked with former military officials and journalists on military reforms. Sprey was included in a recent report by Dina Rasor, founder of the Project On Government Oversight and the Bauman & Rasor Group Inc., on the toxicity problems in the F-22.
Rasor, of the Bauman Rasor Group Inc., said working with a legend like Sprey brought a wealth of information to the subject of stealth aircraft. “He is amazing,” Rasor said.
source: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/forc ... s-air.html
F-16.net Editorial staff & Patch Gallery Administration
F-16.net Editorial staff & Patch Gallery Administration