The U.S. military cleared the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to return to flight on Thursday, ending a week-long cautionary grounding that was ordered after an engine inspection revealed a cracked turbine blade on an F-35A test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
The U.S. military grounded its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters after a routine engine inspection revealed a cracked turbine blade in an F-35A based at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The precautionary flight suspension was announced on February 22, following an inspection earlier in the week. The grounding affects all three variants of the fighter, for a total of 51 aircraft.
The U.S. military cleared the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter to resume flight operations last week, ending a grounding of more than three weeks that was ordered after a fuel line failed in a test aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
An “improperly crimped” fueldraulics line is the probable cause of a fuel leak that led the U.S. military to suspend flight operations of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which was grounded on January 18.
Flight operations of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter remained suspended this week as U.S. military and contractor engineering teams investigated the cause of an engine fueldraulic line failure in a test aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The fueldraulic line is part of the fuel-based hydraulic system that controls the actuators of the F-35B’s vectoring exhaust system. The grounding did not affect the F-35A and C models, respectively, the conventional takeoff and carrier variants.
Facing an uncertain budget environment in the coming months, the U.S. Air Force will nevertheless continue developing a new long-range strike bomber (LRS-B) capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear weapons. “Long term, we’re committed to the long-range strike bomber. We’re going to try to keep programs like that on track,” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said.
The U.S. Navy and prime contractor Northrop Grumman completed the first at-sea deck handling tests of the X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator last month. The demonstrator aircraft, one of two built for the program, performed numerous activities aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman both in port at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., and during the 15-day test phase at sea.
After protracted negotiations, Lockheed Martin reached an agreement in principle with the Pentagon for the fifth lot of low-rate initial production F-35s (LRIP-5). The company has reported new flight-test milestones for the Lightning II stealth fighter in recent weeks. But there was less good news from Canada, which is reconsidering its commitment to the F-35 on cost grounds.
Sales of U.S. military aircraft will fall by 2.4 percent this year to $58.2 billion, the lowest level since 2006, according to a preliminary estimate of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). Sales are expected to decline by another 10 percent in next year as budget cuts force the Pentagon to reduce procurement spending, the association said in its year-end review and forecast, released earlier this month.
Europe’s first unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) has flown. The Neuron technology demonstrator took off from the Dassault test base at Istres, France, at dawn on December 1. Dassault is the prime contractor, teamed with Alenia Aermacchi (Italy); EADS-CASA (Spain); Hellenic Aerospace Industries (Greece); Ruag (Switzerland); Saab (Sweden) and Thales (France).