Nine heavy hitters from the Lockheed Martin F-35 program fronted Tuesday’s media briefing here at Farnborough. But even three senior Pentagon officials, one Air Force general and five industry chiefs could not conjure the actual hardware–although the good news at the show yesterday was that the F-35 was given clearance to fly with “a restricted flight envelope.” The four F-35Bs slated to fly to the UK were have been grounded at NAS Patuxent River after a June 23 engine fire at Eglin AFB in Florida.
Pratt & Whitney F135
The Lockheed Martin F-35 may yet show up here, but the odds were still against it yesterday, as AIN went to press. A senior Pentagon official said Thursday that all F-35 engines had been inspected and no faults found. But the organization responsible for the four F-35B STOVL versions that are supposed to make the transatlantic trip did not lift the grounding.
Pratt & Whitney Canada started running a full PW800 engine demonstrator late last year, company vice president of business aviation and military programs Michael Perodeau told AIN yesterday. He confirmed that the demonstration effort has progressed according to plan but gave little detail.
F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin will retrofit early production lots of F-35Bs delivered to the U.S. Marine Corps with modified bulkheads to address cracking issues that came to light during durability testing of ground articles last fall. It will build redesigned bulkheads into the fighter beginning with low-rate production lot (LRIP) 9, said Rear Adm. Randy Mahr, deputy program manager with the Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office (JPO).
Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II notched its 10,000th flight hour in September, and by the end of the month the combined Joint Strike Fighter fleet had flown 6,492 times for 10,077 hours. Illustrating the momentum that the program has built since operational production aircraft began training operations, more than half the total was amassed in the past 11 months. It had previously taken the program six years to reach the 5,000-hour milestone.
Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) reached an agreement in principle to fund the next two low-rate initial production (LRIP) lots of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, comprising 71 aircraft. The company and DOD jointly announced the “handshake agreement” on July 30 in advance of signing the LRIP contracts, which will provide consecutive, 4-percent reductions in the unit cost of U.S. military variants, they said. The parties said they will release cost details when the contracts are finalized.
F-35 engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney has started sustainment planning for the aircraft’s F135 turbofan even as F-35s continue flight-testing. “The F135 program is in an interesting place,” Bennett Croswell, Pratt & Whitney Military Engines president, said at a Paris Air Show press briefing on June 19. “We’re in all three phases of the lifecycle of the program. We are still in development; we are producing F135 engines; and now we are in sustainment as well.”
Pratt & Whitney president Dave Hess, celebrating an “incredible 12 months” of commercial engine activity, has responded to CFM International’s claims that its Leap engine for the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 Max have materials technology leadership over the Pratt & Whitney PurePower geared turbofan.
Responding to a requirement of the Fiscal Year 2013 defense authorization act, U.S. military services declared their planned initial operational capability (IOC) dates for the three variants of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) on May 31. The legislation required the services to establish IOC dates by June 1.
The international defense industry fair (IDEF 13) held in Istanbul, Turkey, from May 7 to 10 saw the Turkish industry announce a number of developments. The most notable was the revelation of three potential concepts for the TF-X national combat aircraft program, a stealthy aircraft that is ultimately expected to replace the F-16.
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