F-22 Update: More Bad Air, More Big Bucks

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Air Force/Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal

An F-22 over Nevada

At noon Thursday, Air Force officials said their F-22 fighters are ready for war despite pilots’ repeated breathing problems that may have played a role in a fatal crash and continue despite a seven-month probe into the vexing dilemma. A complicating factor: the F-22 is the first warplane designed to fly through biological or chemical agents without forcing the pilot to wear protective gear.

At 5 p.m. Thursday, the Air Force announced it was awarding F-22 builder Lockheed-Martin a “$664,400,703 cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-plus-fixed-fee modification contract for sustainment activities for the F-22 air vehicle for calendar year 2012…Work is to be completed by Dec. 31, 2012.” That suggests the Air Force is spending nearly $2 million a day keeping the F-22s ready to fight. F-22s have yet to fly their first combat mission — despite the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — since they became operational in 2005.