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F-35s remain grounded at Arizona's Luke Air Force Base

F-35s remain grounded at Arizona's Luke Air Force Base

F-35 flight operations at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, will continue to be suspended as analysts investigate five incidents where pilots suffered hypoxia-like symptoms, a spokeswoman for the base said Monday. The term "hypoxia" is the deficiency of oxygen reaching to the tissues in a human body, which was assumingly faced by the F-35 pilots when they go on training with the fighter jets. Rebecca Heyse said on Monday.

Currently, the Wing has 55 F-35A planes that are used to train pilots from the United States and other air forces that are buying the jet. An updated timetable to resume flights was not provided, with the Air Force saying only "we will take as much time as necessary" to ensure pilot safety.

The Lockheed Martin-made F-35A fighter jets were declared combat ready by the Air Force previous year, and F-35s have now deployed to Japan and Europe.

More than 220 operational F-35 jets have been built worldwide.

"The 56th Fighter Wing will continue their pause in local F-35A flying to coordinate analysis and communication between pilots, maintainers, medical professionals and a team of military and industry experts", she said in a statement.

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The Air Force said the incidents occurred from May 2 to Thursday, and that in each case the aircraft's backup oxygen system worked as designed and the jets were able to land safely. The base's F-35A Lightning II's typically fly 25 training missions each weekday, base officials said.

Touted as the fifth-generation fighter jet with a modular design, the F-35 comes in three variants.

Similar issues have previously been reported by pilots of F-22 Raptor fighters.

The US Marine Corps variant, F-35B, was the first to be declared operationally capable. Gen. Brook Leonard, who said in a press conference that US Air Force does take these psychological occurrences very seriously, and does not leave pilot's lives in danger. The planes have collectively flown more than 95,000 flying hours, according to Reuters, but the plane has not yet seen combat.


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