I can’t remember where I read this last week, thus no link to back it up. But a reporter who struck me as credible made the statement that the U.S. military is initiating no new aviation programs outside of drones. Sounds like the kind of generalization that’s just waiting to be shot down. Nevertheless, one can imagine that becoming the case in the not-too-distant future.

At Danger Room, David Axe provides us with an indication why:

Orders grounding the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor stealth fighter spread from Virginia to Alaska last week, briefly sidelining up to half of the roughly 170 Raptors. It’s becoming clearer by the day that the problems vexing America’s premier stealth fighter are neither minor nor temporary.

The current lock-down echoes a fleet-wide grounding between May and September that was prompted by a suspected flaw in the $150-million-a-copy jet’s on-board oxygen-generating system. Pilots had reported mid-flight blackouts and disorientation, possibly resulting from too much nitrogen in their air mix.

As a result “the Air Force’s increasingly out-of-practice F-22 pilots enjoyed just a few weeks of refresher training before an incident in the skies over Virginia prompted the latest stand-down. … With investigators still flummoxed and pilots still blacking out, it’s a safe bet that the stealth fighters — and their pilots — will be spending a lot of time on the ground for the foreseeable future.

In an update to his post, Axe informs us that the F-22s have since been cleared for takeoff again. “But the oxygen problem remains unresolved — and could easily prompt another grounding at any time.”

Let’s hope that none of those groundings come in the form of an F-22 turned lawn dart. Meanwhile, these types of problems — with neither the aircraft or its rusty pilots truly airworthy — are yet another excuse for the military to requisition more drones. Would that drones represented a movement towards a less belligerent foreign policy, but alas, in that regard, it’s but a lateral move.

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