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21 Feb, 2013 22:33

Air Force widow calls out Defense Department, contractors on 'incompetence'

Air Force widow calls out Defense Department, contractors on 'incompetence'

The widow of a US Air Force fighter pilot who was killed when his $420 million F-22 Raptor fighter jet malfunctioned is taking the Department of Defense and its private contractors to task over their "incompetence."

Anna Haney, the wife of late Captain Jeff Haney, released a statement this week to ABC News in following a report by the Pentagon's Inspector General that showed that the Air Force was unable to prove that the crash was Haney's fault.

"I am gratified that the Inspector General has confirmed what we knew all along. The cause of the death of my beloved husband and the father of my children was not pilot error, it was incompetence by the Defense Department and its contractors," the statement read. "The F-22 is not ready to serve its country, but my husband Jeffrey Haney was and he gave his life to demonstrate that brave men will serve while the cowards in the military-industrial complex systematically loot our Treasury to build inferior equipment upon which our servicemen and women stake their lives every day."

It was Anna's first time publicly speaking out on the matter since her husband's death in November 2010.

Capt. Haney was killed in the course of a routine training mission in Alaska after his plane's oxygen system shut down due to a malfunction.

The Air Force launched a year-long investigation into the incident, and in December 2011 its Accident Investigation Board (AIB) eventually releasing a report saying that though Haley probably experienced a "sense similar to suffocation" before dying, the crash was still his fault as he was too distracted to properly operate the plane.

The AIB report speculated that Haney may have tried, but failed to activate the plane's emergency oxygen system.

As soon as the report was released, Haney's family called its conclusion into question. In a May 2012 interview, Jennifer Haney, Jeff's sister, told ABC News that the Air Force had effectively proven that it saw protecting its $79 billion F-22 program to be more important than taking care of its airmen by blaming Capt. Haney for the ordeal.

"To them, Jeff was a number, it feels like sometimes. But those jets are worth a lot of money," she said in the interview.

Anna Haney's statement said that following the AIB's 2011 report, she told the Air Force official who delivered the news that he "should be ashamed of turning his back on [her] husband's memory."

She took action in March 2012 by filing a lawsuit against Lockheed Martin, the Department of Defense contractor that built the plane, as well as other corporations involved in manufacturing the plane. Anna's suit claimed that the firms had knowingly delivered a defective product to the Air Force.

Following an ABC News investigation into an internal F-22 testing group memo that drew attention to design flaw in the plane's oxygen system - a full decade before Haney was killed, the lawsuit was settled on undisclosed terms.

Once the Air Force's accident report was made public the Pentagon launched a review of the Air Force's investigation in order to "verify that [the Air Force's] conclusions are supported by evidence of record consistent with standards of proof." It was the first investigation of its kind in nearly twenty years.

The review was completed in early February 2013 - and while it did not name anyone as fully responsible for the crash, it did say the Air Force report jumped to conclusions that were incomplete, contradictory or "not supported by the facts."

Haney's relatives say the Pentagon report is a triumph for their family.

"Now, too late, we and the world know that Jeffrey Haney was one of the best and the brightest fighter pilots in the United States Air Force," said Anna.

The F-22 is the most expensive fighter jet in the American Air Force's arsenal, costing some $420 million per plane. For many years, F-22 pilots reported oxygen-related problems, occasionally saying they would experience oxygen deprivation symptoms while flying.