Farnborough Will Kick Off Without Any F-35s
The F-35 will miss the first day of this year’s Farnborough air show, the third and final event at which the Pentagon’s newest fighter jet was scheduled to appear as part of its international debut this month in the United Kingdom.
The fifth-generation, stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. is still expected to show up at the event outside London later this week, organizers said in a statement to news media. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the jet will fly at the one of the world’s largest air shows.
“Unfortunately the F-35B Lightning II will not be displaying at the Farnborough International Airshow tomorrow, Monday 14 July,” the statement reads. “The aircraft is still awaiting US DoD clearance but we are hopeful that it will fly at the airshow by the end of the week.”
The fire was triggered by “excessive” rubbing of fan blades in the plane’s F135 engine made by Pratt & Whitney, but doesn’t appear to be a major design flaw, Andrea Shalal of Reuters reported on Sunday, citing comments from the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall.
The grounding upended plans for the aircraft to make its first public appearance abroad.
The U.S. and the U.K. had planned on sending overseas four of the F-35B jump-set variants, including three Marine Corps and one Royal Air Force aircraft. The planes, which can fly like an airplane and hover and land like a helicopter, were standing by at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland.
The F-35Bs were originally scheduled to conduct a fly-over on July 4 at Rosyth Dockyard, Scotland, as part of a naming ceremony for the new British aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth. Last week, it was supposed to be on display at the Royal International Air Tattoo and then fly at Farnborough International Air Show, which kicks off Monday.
The appearances were designed in part to send a message to international partners and potential buyers that the single-engine fighter has rounded the corner in terms of development. The program, which began development in the 1990s, has been plagued by design challenges, cost overruns and schedule delays.
The Joint Strike Fighter, as it’s officially known, is the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program, estimated to cost nearly $400 billion for 2,443 aircraft. Keeping the planes flying over the next half-century may cost another $1 trillion in sustainment.
Eight countries have committed to help develop the F-35, including the U.K., Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway. Also, Israel, Japan and South Korea plan to buy production models of the aircraft.
Military.com has a news team covering the Farnborough air show, including an F-35 briefing on Monday, and will bring you updates throughout the week.