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Cause Of Jet Fighter Problems Remains Elusive For US Navy

F/A-18 Hornets in flight.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken / USMC

Above: F/A-18 Hornets in flight.

A problem that first came to light with a training jet has expanded to the F/A-18 Hornet, a common fighter jet used by the Marines and Navy.

A report by the U.S. Navy has linked four deaths to problems with the F/A-18 fighter jet, a common fighter jet used by the Navy and Marines.

The details emerged as part of a probe that began when a number of Navy pilots grounded their training jets in March amid safety concerns.

The pilots had reported experiencing physiological episodes with symptoms ranging from dizziness to blackouts.

The Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson released a video in May to reassure pilots that the Navy would address their concerns.

“This issue has my full concern," Richardson said in the video. "It is the No. 1 issue in naval aviation. The air boss is listening. NAVAIR is listening. The entire naval aviation enterprise is ready to hear what you have to say. I am listening.”

The Navy’s report attributes at least four deaths over the last 10 years on board the F/A-18 to physiological episodes. The study says these may have been caused by a sudden loss of cabin pressure. Incidents on board F/A-18s have risen steadily from 28 in 2010 to 125 last year.

The Navy has recommended creating a joint commission to study the problem. The Air Force has been looking at similar problems among its F-15 jet fighters. So far, many of the attempts to correct the problem have centered on new ways to overhaul older planes.

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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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