Pentagon: F-35 fire likely an isolated incident

 

The blaze on an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that grounded the military’s fleet might be an isolated incident, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer told lawmakers Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT
“There’s a growing body of evidence that this may have been an individual situation, not a systemic one,” Frank Kendall told the House Armed Services Committee.

Kendall said the department has “inspected all the existing engines that are in service” and “we have not found ... anything that suggests the type of problem that we think caused this failure.”

The incident occurred on June 23, when an F-35 caught fire while trying to take off from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The Pentagon has grounded all 97 of its F-35 jets until the cause of the fire is determined. 

The grounding on July 3 came just over a week before the department planned to show off the Marine Corps version of the plane at two major air shows in Great Britain, one of which is set to begin on Friday.

The F-35 program to date has cost nearly $400 billion, making it the most expensive weapons effort in U.S. history. Its development is seven years behind schedule due to a string of seemingly unending technical glitches, and costs have ballooned by 70 percent over original estimates.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday visited Eglin, an F-35 training hub, but did not make any announcements about whether the jet would fly at the air shows.

Instead, he reiterated that the costly aircraft is the “future for our services.”