A Pentagon official said Monday that the U.S. F-35 fleet might be back in the air in about two weeks. The remarks came after the DoD has suspended all test flights for the entire F-35 joint strike fighter fleet due to engine problems. About two weeks ago, the Pentagon cleared the F-35B jump-jet variant (shown), designed for the Marines, to resume tests after a monthlong suspension. (Lance Cpl. Uriel Avendano / Marine Corps)
A preliminary report on the engine malfunction that grounded the entire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet is expected by Friday, according to a program spokeswoman.
“We expect engineering findings and a follow-on report with better understanding of impact no later than Friday,” Kyra Hawn, a spokeswoman with the F-35 joint program office, told Defense News in an email.
“We still do not know enough to determine the root cause of the crack or project the actual impact,” Hawn wrote. “We should have initial structural engineering data collected, and associated analysis/recommendation by week’s end (if not earlier).”
The Pentagon grounded all JSF models currently in testing after a crack was found in an engine equipped on one of the F-35A conventional takeoff-and-landing models ordered by the Air Force. The grounding was extended to the Marine’s jump-jet F-35B and the Navy’s carrier F-35C because the engine, manufactured by Pratt & Whitney (P&W), is in all three variants.
Matthew Bates, a P&W spokesman, told Defense News that the damaged engine arrived at Pratt’s facilities on Sunday and that engineering teams are “hard at work” inspecting the crack.
“I could foresee the airplane back in the air in the next week or two,” Gen. Chris Bogdan, the JSF program head, told Agence France-Presse in Melbourne. “If it’s more than that, then we have to look at what the risk is to the fleet.”
The AFP quoted Bogdan say saying the fleet should be flying again “within a reasonable period of time.”