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GOP congressman defends pilots for speaking out about F-22

The F-22 Raptor has come under scrutiny following a CBS "60 Minutes" report Sunday. 

The report described a flaw in the aircraft that is causing pilots to become sick and disoriented. Two of the 200 pilots qualified to fly the F-22, Maj. Jeremy Gordon and Capt. Joshua Wilson, of the Virginia Air National Guard, came forward about their fears and concerns on the show without permission from the Air Force.

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Kinzinger said it was important to find out what is wrong with the F-22. He also said pilots had a responsibility to speak up if they felt that something was outside their safety level.

"I think this aircraft is so important to our inventory and so important to our national defense strategy, it's important that we find out what is going on … we've got to be very careful, so I want to make sure we get to the bottom of this," Kinzinger said on CBS "This Morning." 

The pilots are protected from coming forward with the information, but could face punitive action for refusing to fly, said Kinzinger.

The entire F-22 fleet was grounded in May of 2011 after similar incidents of hypoxia occurred. However, the Air Force said last week that the risk to the pilots has been minimized enough that the F-22 does not need to be grounded again while an investigation takes place. 

The commander of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command, Gen. Mike Hostage, met with reporters to discuss the importance of the fighter jet in military operations and efforts to identify the cause of pilot sickness.

“If we think the risk has gone to a level where we just can’t accept it, we either reduce that risk or eliminate it. But right now, we believe that risk — although it’s not as low as we would like it — is low enough to safely operate the airplane at the current tempo," said Hostage, according to the Defense Department.

Hostage said that in an effort to better understand the aircraft and show support for the pilots, he would begin flying the jet himself.

The Illinois congressman told CBS that his office has requested information from the Air Force, but the military has not been forthcoming and he is preparing to make a formal request again.

The Senate Armed Services committee is holding a hearing Tuesday to receive testimony on tactical aircraft programs, where questions of grounding the fleet again might be raised, said CBS reporter Lesley Stahl.