A fuel panel is opened on an F-35A while another F-35 waits to be refueled at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Investigators are still examining the cause of a fire that damaged an F-35 here Monday. (Samuel King / US Air Force)
WASHINGTON — The fire that broke out on an F-35A model Monday will not ground the fleet or alter plans to bring the Joint Strike Fighter to the UK, service officials said today.
No other F-35A models have been grounded by the fire, which broke out as a pilot was preparing for a flight Monday morning at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The plane is attached to the 33rd Fighter Wing.
However, the damaged F-35 model is still on the runway while investigators determine the cause of the fire, which may lead to altered or curtailed test flights from other models at Eglin.
A spokeswoman for the program said the Pentagon expects a preliminary assessment of damage by week’s end, but may not receive engineering analysis until further down the line.
Perhaps most importantly for the program, plans appear on track to bring a pair of F-35B “jump jet” variants to the UK for the Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough air shows. Both Pentagon and Lockheed Martin officials view that appearance, the first flight of the plane overseas, as a milestone for a program that is becoming increasingly reliant on foreign sales. ■