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Air Force Foresaw Fatal F-22 Problems; Rejected $100,000 Fix As Too Expensive 232

Posted by Soulskill
from the ounce-of-prevention dept.
McGruber writes "The Associated Press is reporting that years before F-22 stealth fighter pilots began getting dizzy in the cockpit, before one struggled to breathe as he tried to pull out of a fatal crash, before two more went on the '60 Minutes' television program to say the plane was so unsafe they refused to fly it, a small working group of U.S. Air Force experts knew something was wrong with the prized stealth fighter jet. This working group, called RAW-G, was created in 2002 at the suggestion of Daniel Wyman, then a flight surgeon at Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base, where the first F-22 squadron was being deployed. Wyman is now a brigadier general and the Air Combat Command surgeon general. RAW-G proposed a range of solutions by 2005, including adjustments to the flow of oxygen into pilot's masks. But that key recommendation was rejected by military officials reluctant to add costs to a program that was already well over budget. Kevin Divers, a former Air Force physiologist who led RAW-G until he left the service in 2007, believes the cost of adjusting the oxygen flow would have added about $100,000 to the cost of each $190 million aircraft."
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Air Force Foresaw Fatal F-22 Problems; Rejected $100,000 Fix As Too Expensive

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  • by idontgno (624372) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:18PM (#41492249) Journal

    No denying that shaving off so little and leaving the program and the warfighters at such known risk was a tragic mistake. But I don't know the genesis of the $100,000 cost for software mods. TBH, the Engineering Change Proposal process required to convey the modified requirements in order to change the software as directed may have required more than that much cost just in terms of specification and process costs. Add to that the uptick in formal requirements verification costs, and program schedule delays by adding yet another function point to the development schedule of an already-late program.

    No matter what it cost, it would have been worth it, but keep an open mind as to whether a mere $.1 million upper over the program costs is credible.

    Remember, this is a DoD development program regulated by the Federal Acquisition Regulations and DoD Systems Architecture and Engineering processes. There is no such thing as a cheap change to program baseline.

    • by fermion (181285)
      As mentioned elsewhere, the total cost would be more like 10 million. However, as mentioned above there are other costs. And seriously, estimates are often an order of magnitude off at the end of the day. So we would be looking at another 100 million. After all, if the project were not already drastically over budget, this would not be an issue. OTOH, when one is looking at nearly half a billion per aircraft, another 100 miliion does not seem so bad, and would have been ok in the end as it would likely
    • $100k might be 'cheap' but it also wouldn't have fixed the problem. The solution was evidently to fix the g suits not the oxygen system.

      "The source of the issue, the Pentagon now says, is believed to be a faulty valve in the high-pressure vest that is worn by the pilots at extreme altitudes -- one that Air Force officials believe is constricting the pilots' ability to breathe."
      http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/air-force-confident-22-raptor-fighter-problem-solved/story?id=16845990#.UGYcBk3A98E [go.com]

  • Bad at estimates (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:19PM (#41492259)

    Air Force physiologist who led RAW-G until he left the service in 2007, believes the cost of adjusting the oxygen flow would have added about $100,000 to the cost of each $190 million aircraft

    The air force doesn't do anything for $100,000
    Who take seriously the estimates a physiologist would give to an engineering problem.

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Per aircraft. They built 195 of them to date, so the program to fix the whole fleet would cost about $20 million.

  • Not so fast (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rillopy (650792) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:21PM (#41492303)
    If you read past page 1, what RAW-G warned about isn't even quite what had been happening recently:

    "The link between oxygen saturation at lower altitudes and the recent spate of hypoxia-like incidents at high altitudes remains a matter of debate, and it is likely that there are other contributing factors."

    But don't let that get in the way of headlines.
  • Hard to believe (Score:4, Informative)

    by llZENll (545605) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:25PM (#41492357)

    On one hand you can say that arguing this now is ridiculous now that we know it is actually a problem, there are probably 100's of other things that were budget slashed and worked out fine. On the other hand the entire reason the plane costs 190 million is because every single transistor and bolt in the aircraft is backed by millions of hours of testing and fail-over systems and with such a high priority placed on safety and reliability it seems ludicrous that they would skimp on safety to the pilot. You have to draw the line somewhere though, turns out someone was wrong and is now a higher up, and in true CYA fashion the problem is buried rather than fixed.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      " On the other hand the entire reason the plane costs 190 million"

      Much of that is actually do to poor economies of scale and changing airframe purchase numbers.

      Computer analogy:
      You need a chip fab to make CPUs. The cost per CPU is spread out over MANY CPUs, or not.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:27PM (#41492377) Journal
    Well, Brigadier General, you are driving a hard bargain. Here's what I'm gonna do? The trim line and the auto dimming mirrors are going to be totally free. I am taking them off. Also free floor mats. Free. Totally free. I had already taken ADM and DPC off. Now what do you want me to do? Oxygen flow control for high altitudes? Man, I will go and talk to the manager. But you know what, he is not going to give in. These things are 100K, for Pete's sake. We can't keep throwing things in and still put food on the table for missus and kids, you know. Just consider it. The number I gave you, 190 million that is probably the lowest we are gonna go and we can't go any lower. OK? And another thing, this deal is off after 5PM today. We got a deadline and you shop around all you want. But if I am not getting the order in before 5PM I am not making quota, and this quarter is gone and we need wait for new pricing promotion data from the factory for the next quarter. OK General. 5PM today. Final. And this is the last trip I am making to the manager. And I am telling you. He is not throwing in the oxygen flow control for free. Definite. I'm positive.

    ADM = Additional Dealer Markup

    DPC = Deal promotional charges

    • by nharmon (97591)

      Well, we've never done this before. But seeing as it's special circumstances and all, he says I can knock a hundred dollars off that Trucoat.

    • "Remember, cruise control is NOT included with the cruise missiles."



      The cruise just seems to happen, and the control is a state of mind.
  • Hindsight is 20/20 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:28PM (#41492389) Journal

    This is, by the way, how a $90M aircraft quickly grows to be a $190M aircraft. It's not one thing that sends a project over budget, it's a series of cascading events each with a minor impact on the design which causes over-runs. It may very well be that this was a good idea overlooked, but there are literally thousands of these good ideas in a product cycle like a modern aircraft.

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:32PM (#41492437) Homepage

    the cost of adjusting the oxygen flow would have added about $100,000 to the cost of each $190 million aircraft.

    That's pretty cheap for an aircraft that cost $412 million a piece. And that's just development and production costs, not even touching TCO.

    Lockheed-Martin is full of people who didn't want to be the one guy who tacked an extra $100,000 onto the already astronomical cost of the F-22 and then had to justify it. The buck got passed until it was fumbled, and now here we are with a fighter that has killed more of its own pilots than any enemy.

  • For an increased cost of roughly .05%, the pilot gets to breathe. Seems like money well spent.

  • by SplashMyBandit (1543257) on Friday September 28, 2012 @03:44PM (#41492637)

    The problem was not the aircraft and was not the oxygen flow. The solution was found to be overinflation of the pilots upper G-suit ("Combat Edge") that had been occuring for years and in aircraft such as the F-16 and F-15 but no on noticed it then.

    Here is a link to the USAF describing the problem and fix:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-24/oxygen-problem-with-f-22-now-solved-pentagon-s-little-says.html [bloomberg.com]

    As a secondary precaution the F-22 is also having a particle filter removed from the air supply (the topic of this Slashdot article) but this is not the primary fix.

    The "Raptor cough" which (nugget?) pilots got spooked about is actually common for pilots flying all high-performance jets after performing high-G manuevers. It just happens that the performance of the F-22 is good enough that a lot of these maneuvers can be performed before energy bleeds off enough you can pull them (that is, the Raptor can use them to end nearly all Within Visual Range training encounters - although lesser aircraft occasionally beat less experienced Raptor pilots from time-to-time, which opponents of the Raptor love to crow about). The medical name of this acceleration-induced coughing is.
    acceleration atelectasis
    Please refer to: http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/combat-edge-anti-g-ensemble-might-be-causing-raptors-oxygen-woes-372642/ [flightglobal.com]

    So please could everyone stop with the media-included scaremongering and stop blaming the F-22 or invoke spooky and mysterious illnessed that pilots of that aircraft are afflicted with (ignoring that fact that the G-suit issue and acceleration atelectatis occurs on other aircraft, just less often because the F-15 and F-16 are relatively lower performance [lol, never thought I'd say that] compared to the F-22).

    Now you whippersnappers get off my flight deck!

  • One of those questions: why in the hell do we need to spend $190M on a plane to fight a war that we'd never get in if we didn't have jackasses running our country that only get in these fights because they have the biggest stick.

    I think I answered my own question.

    • Because the lead time for these things is so long that you don't know what kind of jackass behavior politicians in the future will pull off.

      Contingency planning.

    • Perhaps that's the solution. If the US Military was cut to the bone, just about able to defend the US against an attack from Canada or Mexico but nothing more, then perhaps we'd have a few less stupid, evil, unnecessary wars and our politicians would be forced to actually help the country for once.
  • It's time to get the government out of our military.

  • I see the US military complex is making good use of the SCC strategy: introduce lots of little flaws, so that nobody realizes they don't need the product anyway.

  • How can it cost 100K to tweak the oxygen flow to a mask?

  • 190 million dollars for each fighter plane, think about that for a moment...

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