Software glitch scuttles Raptors squadron

A minor software glitch temporarily grounded a squadron of the newest and most sophisticated fighter planes used by the U.S. Air Force recently.

On February 10, a dozen F-22A Raptor jets were en route from Hickam Air Force Base in Oahu, Hawaii, to Kadena Air Base in Japan when six of the planes’ navigational systems malfunctioned. That forced the entire squadron to return to Hawaii.

After landing, Air Force officials determined that the Raptors were suffering from a software malfunction, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command.

The Air Combat Command handles such tasks as equipping fighter and bomber forces and coordinating their movements.

The F-22A jets are part of the Air Force’s 27th Fighter Squadron based at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. Along with 250 personnel, the jets are being deployed to Kadena as part of a routine rotation to the U.S. Pacific Command. After the squadron’s return to Hawaii, personnel from both the military and Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the jet, ran tests on the aircraft to evaluate the problem.

“They put their heads together and discovered a fix,” the spokesman said. The Raptors were then flight-tested for safety and resumed their trip to Kadena, with the final jet arriving last two weeks ago. The F-22A is a state-of the-art fighter jet that costs about US$136 million apiece and offers special surveillance and other capabilities.

The spokesman was unable to explain the exact nature of the software glitch, but believed it to be specific to the Raptor. As a result, the patch that was devised to correct the navigation issues was applied to the rest of the Air Force’s 87-strong fleet of F-22As. “We applied that fix across the board,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin last week insisted the navigation software problem was minor. “The issue was quickly identified in a matter of days and a fix installed in the airplanes, which were flown successfully to Japan,” he said.

“There are 87 of these exceptional fighters and they are out there performing exceptionally well, and their pilots continue to fly them in new and greater ways.” He declined to comment on the nature of the glitch.

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