Pentagon decides F-35 won’t fly at air show

 

The troubled F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not make its debut at an upcoming international air show, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.

“While we're disappointed that we're not going to be able to participate in the air show, we remain fully committed to the program itself and look forward to future opportunities to showcase its capabilities to allies and to partners,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said. 

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The Pentagon had grounded the entire F-35 fleet after an engine on an Air Force version of the jet caught fire when taking off on June 23. 

Officials cleared the F-35 for limited flights on Monday night, giving air show attendees hope that the Marine Corps variant would make its debut. The Marine Corps commandant decided Tuesday against sending the jet, though, due to a number of other factors.

“When we operate aircraft, we look at many factors, to include operational risks, the weather, ground time, maintenance issues. All of these factors were weighed appropriately in making this difficult decision,” said Kirby. 

Kirby said although the aircraft was no longer grounded it was still limited to speeds of Mach 0.9 and other in-flight restrictions. Also, the engines must be inspected after three hours of flight time. 

The engine fire is just the latest of the F-35 program’s troubles. At $400 billion and seven years behind schedule, the aircraft is the most expensive weapons program in U.S. history.

Kirby stressed that the Pentagon remained “committed” to the program, and officials expected to restore the F-35 fleet to full operational capability in the “near future.” 

“This by no means should signal any lack of commitment to the F-35 or to its future in the U.S. military or in those militaries of partner nations [that] want to purchase it,” he said.

“It's the next-generation fighter aircraft, and we remain committed to that.”