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F-35 crash shows problems still lurk behind stealth fighter

Oxygen supply system raises questions as search for pilot and plane continues

An F-35A fighter jet at the Paris Air Show. U.S. pilots of F-35s and other planes have reported symptoms that suggest an oxygen shortage.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- In the weeks since a Japanese F-35A stealth fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. and Japan have not yet found either the plane or the cause of the incident. But it could be linked to a system that has bedeviled the American military for years.

All F-35s have onboard oxygen generation systems, or OBOGS, which draw oxygen from the surrounding air and supply it to the pilot at the high concentration necessary to operate at high altitudes. The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have used OBOGS for more than three decades, in models including the F-16 and F/A-18 as well as certain training planes.

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