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U.S. Grounds Every F-35 After Fire

F-35

The United States has grounded all of its F-35 aircraft after one was destroyed in a fire:

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has grounded its fleet of F-35 fighter jets after an incident in which one of them caught fire as it was preparing to take off at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, the Pentagon said.

The grounding is the latest in a long string of delays that has plagued the Air Force’s newest, and most advanced, fighter aircraft, and comes just days before the plane was to make its international debut at an air show in Britain.

The root cause of the problem at Eglin two weeks ago remains under investigation, the Pentagon’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, said in a statement on Thursday night. “Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered, and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data,” he said.

The Pentagon was seeking to determine if the Eglin fire was an isolated incident or whether it signaled a wider problem in the F-35 fleet, which is spread across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Admiral Kirby said preparations were continuing for the fighter jet to take part in international air shows. A final decision on the British exhibition will be made in a few days, he said.

No one was injured in the fire at Eglin, but the Air Force and Navy temporarily suspended flights. The F-35, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, will bring stealth capability to the country’s fighter fleet; its backers say that it will also bring a new versatility that will enable it to operate in virtually any battle situation.

This is only the latest setback for a blame that has been beset by woes for years now, and has been criticized for being far too expensive. At this point, though, the U.S. military has committed to the plane for the foreseeable future, and there are several air forces in allied nations that are set to purchase a version of the plane for themselves. So, the only solution will be to find out what the cause of this latest problem is and fix it, as soon as possible.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Don’t worry, if it turns out a serious problem they will just adjust the specs to allow for it, like they’ve done so often in this program. I’m sure it’s all legal, but only because Boeing hasn’t found a way to kill the contracts.

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  2. george says:

    and there are several air forces in allied nations that are set to purchase a version of the plane for themselves.

    Though at least one of those (Canada) is having second thoughts about such a purchase – in fact have put it back to committee to study. And I’d be surprised if others aren’t doing so as well.

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  3. DrDaveT says:

    At this point, though, the U.S. military has committed to the plane for the foreseeable future

    Ah, yes, the fallacy of sunk costs. Gotta love it.

    Remember, we said exactly the same thing about the F-22, the A-12, the DDG-1000 destroyer, the B-1 bomber, the B-2 bomber, the Future Combat Systems, the Crusader mobile gun, the Comanche helicopter, etc. All of those programs were too big, too important, and had too much sunk cost already invested for them to be killed — until we killed them.

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  4. Ron Beasley says:

    As I posted here the F-35 is the biggest scandal and the biggest clusterf**k in Washington DC.

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  5. CB says:

    ::Eisenhower spins in grave::

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  6. Ben Johannson says:

    Interesting interview with the designer of the F-16, in which he explains why he thinks the F-35 blows.

    http://digg.com/video/the-designer-of-the-f-15-explains-just-how-inanely-stupid-the-f-35-is

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  7. Jeff says:

    latest setback for a blame…

    That’s an appropriate typo in this context. Plane equals blame.

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  8. DrDaveT says:

    @Ben Johannson:

    Interesting interview with the designer of the F-16, in which he explains why he thinks the F-35 blows.

    Be aware that there is a LOT of baggage there that you might not be aware of. The F-16 was subversive even in its day, as a direct attack on the F-15 program. The F-16 crowd felt very strongly that what was most important in a fighter is that it be fast and maneuverable. At the time, they were almost certainly right. Today, given the advances in anti-aircraft technologies, it’s much less certain.

    Every American taxpayer should read The Pentagon Wars, which discusses the F-16’s origins in detail (along with a lot of other things), in the context of the revolution going on inside the Pentagon at the time. The movie, with Cary Elwes and Kelsey Grammar, is pretty good too (but doesn’t talk about the F-16).

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