Farnborough, England: The US and UK militaries are “not giving up” on bringing the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter to Britain for a high-profile air show this week after an engine fire prompted a fleetwide grounding, a top US official said Monday.
“We’re not giving up yet. We still have a few more days left to try to get the airplane over here,” Air Force Lieutenant-General Chris Bogdan, the Pentagon’s F-35 programme chief, told reporters at the Farnborough Airshow.
US Defence Undersecretary Frank Kendall said the United States and other countries involved in the multinational F-35 programme remained committed to the programme despite the June 23 failure of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine on a US/sAir Force jet that has grounded the entire F-35 fleet.
Kendall said he remained hopeful the grounding order could be lifted in time to bring jets to the Farnborough air show that began Monday and runs through Sunday, but said no decision had been made at this point.
He said there was growing evidence that the failure of the engine — triggered by excessive rubbing in the third stage of Pratt’s F135 engine — was not a systemic design flaw affecting the whole fleet. But he said officials were still trying to understand why the engine broke up.
The United States’ newest combat jet missed a British military show last week where it was to make its international debut, and it remains unclear if it will be able to appear at the Farnborough show.
Kendall and Bogdan were joined at a news conference at the show by top executives from the biggest contractors on the programme — Lockheed, Pratt, Northrop Grumman Corp, and Britain’s BAE Systems, as well as the acquisition chiefs of the US Air Force and Navy.
Kendall said no similar problems had been found on any of the other 98 engines in service, and underscored that the programme was still in the development stage when technical problems are meant to be found and fixed.
“It’s unfortunate timing,” he told the news conference, “but it’s not a major setback.”
US officials said they expected to adopt a more streamlined process for the different military services and countries to report mishaps and accidents after early delays in sharing information about the June 23 incident.
Kendall said he was satisfied that Pratt and the other parties involved were providing information for investigators as they worked to understand and resolve the incident.