Skip to main content

Pentagon grounds F-35 fleet after runway fire

By CNN Staff
updated 3:06 PM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
An F/A-18 Hornet is pictured aboard the USS George H.W. Bush on May 19, 2009. Two F/A-18s from the Bush struck ISIS artillery in Iraq on Friday, August 8. The F/A-18 Hornet, a late-'70s contemporary of the Air Force's F-16 Fighting Falcon, became the workhorse of U.S. carrier-based air power, and still supplements the Navy's and Marines' more current fleet of F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets. It is designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft. An F/A-18 Hornet is pictured aboard the USS George H.W. Bush on May 19, 2009. Two F/A-18s from the Bush struck ISIS artillery in Iraq on Friday, August 8. The F/A-18 Hornet, a late-'70s contemporary of the Air Force's F-16 Fighting Falcon, became the workhorse of U.S. carrier-based air power, and still supplements the Navy's and Marines' more current fleet of F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornets. It is designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft.
HIDE CAPTION
U.S. military's fighter fleet
U.S. military's fighter fleet
U.S. military's fighter fleet
U.S. military's fighter fleet
U.S. military's fighter fleet
U.S. military's fighter fleet
U.S. military's fighter fleet
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fire took place June 23 at Eglin Air Force Base
  • The Joint Strike Fighter is grounded for engine inspections
  • The F-35 program has been beset by delays and cost overruns over the years

(CNN) -- The Pentagon's most expensive weapons program ever, the F-35 warplane, is grounded again.

Developed at a cost of nearly $400 billion so far and beset for years by cost overruns and delays, the so-called Joint Strike Fighter was put down temporarily this week following a runway fire at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. No one was hurt.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the cause of the June 23 incident remains under investigation, and the timing of when they might take off again is unclear.

"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," Kirby said.

Engine maker Pratt & Whitney said in a statement that it was working with Air Force investigators to inspect all engines in the fleet. It declined further comment.

Lead contractor Lockheed Martin also said it was working with investigators. It is producing variants of the plane for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Air Force.

The Pentagon wants more than 2,400 ultimately, while hundreds more are expected over time to go to allies such as South Korea, Japan and Australia.

More than 100 planes have been built so far, most for testing, but the program is still in its development and training phases.

The military says the stealthy fighter will be "the most affordable, lethal, supportable and survivable aircraft ever to be used" by so many services worldwide.

But its production has been controversial for its soaring cost history -- the price tag has nearly doubled from early estimates, to $135 million per unit as of last year, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office report in March -- as well as its schedule, software and other setbacks. Test flights began in 2007.

While all models have been grounded in the past for various problems, the version for the Marines, the F-35B, has had more issues. Experts say that's mainly due to its design for shorter takeoffs and vertical landings.

Richard Aboulafia, a Teal Group analyst, said every component of the F-35 overall "is pushing the frontiers of technology" as engineers combine extraordinary engine power with a lighter weight design.

He said the program has made gradual progress in recent years where glitches get resolved pretty quickly compared with 18 to 24 months ago, when setbacks seemed to come one right after another.

"It's a tremendously complex project," he said, adding that cost issues remain a concern.

The F-35 is due to make a much-anticipated appearance at the international air show at Farnborough airport in Hampshire, England, in coming weeks. Aboulafia said a no-show could indicate a more serious problem with the engine.

U.S. sends B-2 stealth bombers to Europe

U.S. official: 'Dangerous' Russian jet fly-by was 'straight out of a movie'

CNN's Dana Ford and John Crawley contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
U.S. military
updated 1:40 PM EDT, Wed June 11, 2014
Two of the United States' most recognizable military aircraft -- a pair of B-2 stealth bombers -- caught the eyes of residents as they arrived in Europe.
updated 9:23 PM EDT, Fri May 16, 2014
The Huey helicopter came in from the west, the "pop, pop, pop" of its blades announcing its arrival.
updated 9:13 AM EDT, Fri May 9, 2014
For the second time in two years, the U.S. Navy is parting with one of its aircraft carriers for a penny.
One number is known: 22 veterans commit suicide each day. Another is not. How many military relatives are killing themselves? CNN investigates.
updated 10:33 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
Russia has stepped up military activity in the Pacific, including sending long-range bombers on flights off the coast of California.
updated 6:40 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
The recent deployment of U.S. Army forces to Poland and three Baltic states is steeped in matters strategic and diplomatic to American foreign policy.
updated 7:28 AM EDT, Wed June 11, 2014
The U.S. Navy's newest stealth destroyer is twice as long as the Statue of Liberty but barely shows up on radar.
updated 2:10 PM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Imagine ships that use lasers to destroy threats at the cost of about a dollar a shot, and vessels making fuel from the very seawater in which they're floating.
updated 5:51 PM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Nine Air Force commanders lost their jobs in the wake of a cheating scandal involving systemic cheating on tests by officers in the U.S. nuclear missile program.
updated 10:07 AM EDT, Fri March 28, 2014
The first Iraq war combat veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate introduced legislation aimed at reducing the number of military veterans who commit suicide.
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
Impassioned wrangling over changing the way the military prosecutes sex assaults pits the 20 women in the Senate against each other.
updated 8:07 AM EST, Thu March 6, 2014
Maj. Kurt Chew-Een Lee, the first Asian-American U.S. Marine Corps officer, rose through the ranks beginning his career from World War II to the Vietnam War.
updated 9:32 AM EST, Fri December 6, 2013
The evolution of drones continues.
updated 8:37 PM EDT, Fri May 9, 2014
updated 11:40 PM EST, Sun December 1, 2013
One of the U.S Navy's top commanders says his Pacific fleet "gets all the best stuff" when it comes to state-of-the-art weaponry.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT