Courtesy U.S. Air Force
An F-22 Raptor fighter jet flies in a training mission over the Nevada Test and Training Range.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Tuesday lifted flight restrictions for a squadron of F-22 fighter jets that are being deployed to Kadena, Japan, within the next few days.
The F-22s were restricted from flying more than a half hour from any landing area and at higher altitudes after several pilots suffered in-flight symptoms of hypoxia.
The 18 Kadena-bound fighter jets will fly a northern route over the Pacific that will not take them more than 90 minutes from the nearest landing field. Additionally, they will fly at lower altitudes — nowhere near their 50,000-foot operational capacity. The lower altitude will not put pilots under the same physiological stress as higher altitudes.
Once at Kadena, the stealth aircraft will be put back into the current flight restrictions imposed against all other F-22s. Once again on a short tether, pilots will not be permitted to fly more than 30 minutes from a landing field, and must remain at lower altitudes.
Flight restrictions will remain in place for all F-22s conducting training missions in the U.S. and those deployed to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf region.
The restrictions will be lifted only when the Pentagon is satisfied the Air Force has positively identified the cause and eliminates the threat of hypoxia for F-22 pilots.
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