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Navy Can’t Find ‘Culprit’ Of T-45s Suspected Hypoxia; Mattis Pledges Afghan Strategy

Posted by Colin Clark on

Navy photo

Navy T-45 Goshawk

WASHINGTON: The Navy hasn’t been able to process 25 prospective pilots for each of the last three months as it struggles to find the cause of what may be hypoxia episodes afflicting many T-45 pilots. The service has not been able to ferret out what is causing them to suffer from headaches and other symptoms.

Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, the head of Naval Air Systems Command, testified to the Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee this afternoon that the Navy has analyzed all the systems feeding air to its pilots in T-45s and has “not been able to discover a culprit.” So far 75 pilots have not been able to qualify.

You could see the frustration on the admiral’s face as he spoke. Problems like this can be very difficult to figure out — it took the Air Force several years before it reliably demonstrated it had fixed hypoxia problems with the F-22 — and, as you can see from the chart below, there have been sharp increases in reported incidents since 2014 for the T-45s and all but one of the F-18 models.

Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. graphic from Navy data

“Physiological episodes” caused by problems with air supply have risen dramatically for both the Navy’s T-45 Goshawk trainers and all variants of its F-18 Hornet strike fighters. (Navy data)

Even so, Grosklags told the subcommittee he thought pilots would be back to flight training in “weeks, not months” thanks to an array of prophylactic measures the Navy plans to implement so pilots can identify problems before they become life threatening.

Meanwhile, at another hearing this morning before the full Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pledged to have a full Afghan strategy ready by mid-July.

Sen. John McCain grumbled several times that Mattis had to do better in getting the strategy to the American people and needed to do more than not lose, which is what he said the Obama strategy was. Surprisingly, Mattis admitted that, effectively, the US was losing in Afghanistan: “We are not winning in Afghanistan. We will correct that.”

The Trump administration, of course, promised an Afghan strategy last month.

McCain told Mattis the obvious. If the Pentagon doesn’t come up with its own plan for winning in Afghanistan, “you’re going to get a strategy from us.”


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