The restrictions have been in effect since May, limiting F-22 flights to locations that enable quick recovery and landing. Panetta also ordered the Air Force to expedite the fielding of an automatic oxygen backup system.
A press release issued by the Pentagon Tuesday said the Air Force had made two changes that apparently have resolved an oxygen issue that has eluded the experts since a fatal November 2010 crash first brought the matter to the forefront.
The first was to eliminate wear of a pressure vest during high-altitude missions. A faulty valve caused the vest to inflate unnecessarily, causing breathing problems for some pilots.
Second, the Air Force has removed a canister filter from the oxygen delivery system, increasing the volume of air to pilots.
"With any aircraft -- be it F-22 or the F-16 or with a helicopters or ground vehicles -- we can never take the risk to zero," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little is quoted in the Pentagon statement. "But we have an obligation to our troops and our airmen to make whatever equipment they are using as safe as possible and that's what we think we are doing here."
Beginning today, the Pentagon notice indicated, F-22s may resume long-duration flights for deployments, aircraft deliveries and repositioning of aircraft.
Little noted that an F-22 deployment to Kadena, Japan, has been authorized although the flight will be subject to altitude restrictions.
Training missions will continue to be conducted near runways until completion of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board-recommended corrective actions, the Pentagon noted.
The Air Force also must notify Panetta when fixes have been completed with pressure vests and cockpit life support components.
"Pending successful completion of associated testing and NASA's independent analysis, Panetta can decide to return the F-22 fleet status to normal operations," the release specified.