Grounded F-35 denied Farnborough opening day debut

The F-35 fighter jet will not make its UK debut on the opening day of the Farnborough Airshow after the entire fleet was grounded last week following an engine fire.

The incident, which happened in the US last week, also saw plans for the jet to appear at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire last Friday scrapped.

Despite insistence from Farnborough organisers that the F-35 will still take flight later this week, the latest blow marks further embarrassment for a project beset by delays and cost overruns.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, blamed what he described as “excessive” rubbing fan blades in the planes’ engines for the fire, but played down fears a design flaw was to blame.

A statement released by Farnborough organisers said: “The aircraft is still awaiting US Department of Defense clearance but we are hopeful that it will fly at the airshow by the end of the week.”

As the most defence project in US military history overseen by Lockheed Martin, costs are estimated to be around £230m, and sees over 500 UK companies participating.

The 14 UK jets ordered so far as believed to be worth around £2.5bn, which led to BAE Systems investing £150m in facilities to manufacture the rears of the fuselage and tail fins.