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Defensive Flying

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You are the most advanced fighter in the world. You have the stealth capabilities, advanced radar, state of the art weapons systems and ultra efficient turbofans that allow you to “supercruise” at supersonic speeds. You’ve gone up against the best that the US Air Force and Navy has to offer, taking out F-15s, and F-16s during simulated war games in Alaska.

Yet in moments you find yourself deaf and dumb over the Pacific Ocean on a 12-15 hour flight from Hawaii to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa Japan. Yes, you the F-22 Raptor have been felled by the international date line (IDL).

When six Raptors crossed over the international date line, multiple computer systems crashed on the planes. Navigation, partial communications and fuel subsystems went offline completely. Any attempts to reboot met with failure.

Thankfully, visibility that day was not a problem. Had the Raptors gotten seperated from their refueling tankers or had the weather been bad there would have been no attitude referance. “The Raptors had no communications or navigation,” said retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. “They would have turned around and probably could have found the Hawaiian Islands. but if the weather had been bad on approach, there could have been real trouble.”

The glitch turned out to be a Y2k like problem in the millions of lines of code. someone made a small error in a couple of lines of code and the U.S. Air Force may have been forced to admit that their aircraft which cost $125 million USD apiece plus had been knocked out of the sky.

Luckily the error was discovered before combat and the problem was fixed with tiger teams in about 48 hours and the airplanes completed their deployment.

“This could have been real serious in combat” observed Shepperd.

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