F-22 Fighter Pilots Battle Mysterious 'Raptor Cough'

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Top Air Force Commander to Hop in F-22 Cockpit

After the "Nightline" and "60 Minutes" reports, Air Force Air Combat Command head Gen. Mike Hostage released a statement expressing the service's "confidence" in the beleaguered jets.

"We live in a community where risk is part of our lives," he said. "If we think the risk has gone to a level where we just can't accept it, we either reduce that risk or eliminate it. But right now, we believe that risk -- although it's not as low as we would like it -- is low enough to safely operate the airplane at the current tempo."

Hostage said he would soon hop in the cockpit of a Raptor himself to help him understand what the pilots are facing and not stop flying until a solution to the mystery problem was found.

"I'm asking these guys to assume some risk that's over and above what everybody else is assuming, and I don't feel like it's right that I ask them to do it and then I'm not willing to do it myself -- that's not fair," he said.

The Air Force has always maintained that the "hypoxia-like" incidents happen in exceedingly rare circumstances -- 25 cases compared to the thousands of missions flown without incident – and they have installed a number of safety precautions to mitigate the danger.

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