While I was unable to attend this (30 April) morning's briefing at Joint Base Langley-Eustis down in Hampton, Virginia, press reports from the event indicate that the US Air Force is admitting that a "small number" of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor pilots are refusing to fly the jet.
"Obviously it's a very sensitive thing because we are trying to ensure that the community fully understands all that we're doing to try to get to a solution," says Air Combat Command chief Gen Mike Hostage as quoted by the Associated Press.
The USAF has not found the root cause of 11 hypoxia-like cases since the Raptor fleet returned to flight in September after a near five-month stand-down. The F-22 fleet has flown about 12,000 times since then.
Incidentally, I had known that several pilots were planning on asking not to fly the Raptor for weeks, but could not report it because it might compromise the sources. I had asked USAF PA to confirm on the record--this appears to be it.
"I'm going to check out and fly the airplane so I can understand exactly what it is they're dealing with. The day we figure out what the problem is I will stop flying because we don't have enough sorties for all of our combat aviators to get as much training as they need," Hostage says--via AP.
Hostage did address the recent reports of the F-22 deploying to Al Dhafra, in the United Arab Emirates. But he wouldn't confirm where the jet was deployed to, or where the aircraft came from--though the jet has deployed to Al Dhafra before.
However, I have it on good authority that the jets came from the 7th Fighter Squadron at the 49th Wing, based at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. My understanding is that this was simply part of their Air Expeditionary Forces rotation.
Indeed, Hostage says the deployment was previously planned.
Incidentally, I'm off to Marietta, Georgia, in the morning to attend the delivery ceremony for the last jet 10-4195 on 2 May.