New York: America`s F-22 Raptor, the world`s most advanced and expensive stealth jet fighter, will be heading back into the skies to protect the homeland after a nearly five-month grounding due to oxygen problems, the United States Air Force has announced.
The entire fleet of F-22s -- over 160 planes -- has been waiting on the tarmac since early May after the Air Force reported 12 separate incidents of pilots experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms" in the past three years while flying the planes.
According to a news channel, the planes will make their way back between the clouds in a "comprehensive incremental return-to-fly plan" after the entire fleet undergoes an "extensive inspection of the life support systems".
The planes were grounded so long that the pilots reportedly might have to repeat gruelling training just to become proficient in the complex planes once again.
"We now have enough insight from recent studies and investigations that a return to flight is prudent and appropriate," Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz said in a statement.
He added: "We`re managing the risks with our aircrews, and we`re continuing to study the F-22`s oxygen systems and collect data to improve its performance."
The first of the F-22s are scheduled to hit the skies Wednesday, the Air Force said.
But going back into the air does not mean they will be heading back into combat.
The 187 planes, which cost U.S. Government 77.4 billion dollars, have flown over 300 missions in support of Operation Noble Eagle -- a series of military operations directed at homeland defense and civil support, according to the Department of Defense.