"After receiving assurances that these corrective measures would minimize hypoxia-like events in the F-22, the secretary approved the Air Force planned sequence of actions to remove flight restrictions over time," Little said.
The process starts today, he said, with an order from the Air Force for a squadron of F-22s to be deployed to Kadena Air Base in Japan. The planes will fly there at altitudes that will not require pilots to wear the vests.
The Air Force is still in the process of installing an automatic emergency back-up oxygen system to the planes but that process is not expected to be completed until next spring.
Despite costing an estimated $79 billion, no jet in the entire F-22 fleet -- some 185 planes -- has ever seen combat. From Iraq to Afghanistan to the no-fly zone over Libya, the Air Force said the planes simply weren't necessary.