Concerns over F-35 jets raised as Pentagon grounds fleet

Posted on 25 Feb 2013

The Pentagon grounded the entire fleet of Joint Strike Fighter jets after a half-inch crack was discovered in the engine of an aircraft belonging to the US Air Force.

Two of the 51 fighters that were grounded are British, and currently being tested in a Florida base.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “It is too early to know the fleet-wide impact of this finding, however as a precautionary measure all F-35 flight operations have been suspended until the investigation is complete and the cause of the blade crack is fully understood.”

Although it was detected on the F-35A variant of the fighter jet, and not the F35-B that the British military will start using in 2018, the crack represents a source of concern, as both variants of the jet use the same engine, which is developed by American aerospace specialist Pratt & Whitney.

Should one of the governments involved in the JSF programme (the Pentagon’s most expensive project to date, which could cost as much as £625 billion over the next five decades) decide to reduce the size of their orders, the UK could end up spending more per plane than the $240 million currently estimated.

In particular, the US may end up cutting back on its order should Congress fail to reach an agreement on a set of spending cuts – known as the sequester – that will begin next week.