JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON - F-22's are America's premier fighter jets, but there have recently been problems associated with the raptors.
“Any time you get a new major weapons system that's designed and developed, you are going to run into issues and find out things that you didn't know before,” said Lieutenant Colonel David Piffarerio.
Two jets from JBER spent two months at the Air Logistics Center at Hill Air Force base in Utah getting upgrades to keep the jets at the top of their game.
“What you are seeing is the world's most advanced fighter aircraft ever built,” said Piffarerio, with a smile.
These days Elmendorf's crews are confident in their 65,000-pound machine, but it was only two years ago when a pilot died in an F-22.
In November of 2010 Captain Jeff Haney crashed his jet near the Denali Highway. Initial reports from the Department of Defense indicated that the pilot was somehow inhaling airborne toxins.
It wasn't until after a long investigation that the root of the problem was revealed.
“It was more the equipment that the pilots were wearing; we were having trouble breathing in the cockpit,” said Piffarerio. “So they've redesigned valves for us, in our upper pressure garments.”
Piffarerio just flew his $143-million jet home from Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where it was refurbished.
“It’s new hardware and software gives us the latest air-to-ground capability to basically find, fix, track, and engage emerging air-to-ground threats and it gives us that capability that no other fighter in the Air Force can do.”
He said these planes fly two to three times a week and that they fly hard. Keeping up on the maintenance keeps the pilots safe.
“Just like with any new car you get, there is always going to be modifications that come out after the manufacturer produces it,” said Technical Sergeant Andy Eichorst. “Well the F-22 is the same way, they have upgrades to the hardware and software and they are just going to make the airplane that much better.”
Eichorst works on these planes every day, but he said they rely of Hill Air Force Base for the major repairs because JBER doesn't have the tools or the manpower to do them.
According to JBER, no other country has technology that parallels what's inside an F-22, but they do say other countries are working on it.