Lockheed Martin awarded $19M contract to address F-22 oxygen issue

The Pentagon grounded the fighters last year to investigate the issue, but the Air Force began flying the planes again without determining the root of the oxygen problem, which prompted two pilots to speak out and say in a “60 Minutes” interview last month that they were refusing to fly the plane due to safety concerns.

The pilots went to Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) as whistleblowers and are being given protections accordingly by the Pentagon.

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Two weeks after the “60 Minutes” story, the Pentagon said it was placing restrictions on the F-22 to keep the planes closer to landing areas and moving forward with the automatic backup oxygen system.

The Lockheed Martin contract will retrofit 40 fighters and 10 spare planes, and the contract is scheduled to be completed by April 2013.

At a Pentagon briefing Tuesday, spokesman Capt. John Kirby said that “there has been a lot of work in the intervening weeks” to find the source of the oxygen problem.

“They're working on this very, very hard,” Kirby said. “We expect that they will be briefing the secretary, giving him an update in the very near future.”