The U.S. Department of Defense has grounded all of its F-35 fighter jets after one of them caught fire during take off at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The advanced fighter was set to make its international debut during showings to prospective buyers at two air shows in the U.K. beginning next week.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, and the Pentagon, along with engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, is trying to assess whether the malfunction was an isolated incident, or indicative of a fleet-wide problem. Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John F. Kirby said in a statement, “Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered, and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data.”
The Lockheed Martin F-35, which has variations designed for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, is a multirole fighter designed to perform ground attack, reconnaissance and air defense missions with stealth capability. The F-35 is the only fifth-generation fighter jet available for export from the United States, and orders have been placed by the U.K. (138 planes), Australia, Canada (which ordered 65), Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and Turkey.
Here is a small documentary on the F-35:
Britain already has a few of the jets, which go for roughly $160 million a piece, for testing and training purposes. Though it remains unclear if any F-35’s will make it to the air show next week, which would assure customers that Lockheed Martin is on track with working out problems with its latest fighter.
— Lockheed Martin (@LockheedMartin) June 30, 2014
The F-35 initiative was a $400 billion joint venture between Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon, the most expensive in Defense Department history. The engine fire mishap is the latest controversy surrounding a plane that has garnered significant international attention.
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