(Reuters) - Defense Secretary Leon Panetta approved plans to send a squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp F-22 fighter jets to Japan, a step toward lifting flight restrictions on the most advanced U.S. warplane after the Air Force ruled out that contaminants were causing some F-22 pilots to get dizzy at the controls.
Pentagon spokesman George Little announced the decision on Tuesday, noting that a detailed and lengthy Air Force analysis had concluded that symptoms of oxygen deprivation experienced by some F-22 pilots were caused by the amount of oxygen delivered to pilots, not the quality of the air.
He said the Air Force was initiating a series of actions aimed at removing current altitude and other restrictions on the F-22 over time, and would recommend resuming most long-duration flights after the F-22 squadron flew to Japan.
The Air Force stopped flying the F-22 completely for five months last year. It resumed flights in September, but in May the Pentagon imposed new restrictions on how far they could fly from airstrips and how high they could climb.