F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Grounded

An F-35A in flight. Photo by USAF

An F-35A in flight. Photo by USAF

On Friday, 22 February, the entire fleet of the military’s newest fighter jet was grounded. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was taken out of service when a routine inspection found a cracked turbine blade in the engine of a test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California. The blade was sent to Pratt and Whitney’s facility in Connecticut to investigate the cause of the crack. This comes only a week after the Marine variant of the F-35 returned to service from a 30 day suspension due to engine problems.

Developement of the F-35 has been continually plagued by delays and cost overruns. The F-35 is one of Depart of Defense’s costliest program on record costing $396 billion. Currently seven years behind schedule, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta had previously stated the first operational F-35s were expected to deploy to Japan in 2017.

The F-35 was sold as a net cost savings to the Pentagon. International partners were going to purchase the aircraft creating an opportunity for Lockheed Martin to optimize facilities for mass production and thus reducing per plane costs. Several countries that initially supported the program have since withdrawn their support. This grounding could not have come at a worse time as the country sits on the brink of sequestratoin. Should defense spending cuts be enacted there is little doubt the F-35 will become a target, despite the Pentagon remaining commited to the aircraft.

The F-35 is to be used by the Air Force, Navy, and Marines in order to replace the A-10, F-16, F-18, AV-8B Harriers and the UK’s GR-7 and Sea Harriers. The JSF has stealth characteristic to reduce it’s radar signature and a host of cutting edge electronics to give the pilots unprecedented levels o situational awareness. The aircraft also has the ability to perform vertical/short take-off and landing, or V/STOL) allowing it to operate on smaller ships as well as in forward deployed locations without runways. The F-35 is produced by Lockheed Martin

Eric Storms

Eric Storms

I served for 10 years in the USAF as a crypto maintenance tech both overseas and stateside. After separating I've continued to work in the defense world as a contractor. Outside of work I enjoy running and cycling as well as researching and writing about military gear. If there's some gear you heard of like to learn more about? Drop me a line!
Eric Storms
Eric Storms