A F-35B prototype during flight trials on board LHD-1 USS Wasp (Image © US Navy)

F-35 fails Fairford

A F-35B prototype during flight trials on board LHD-1 USS Wasp (Image © US Navy)
A F-35B prototype, seen during the tests. The F-35B was supposed to make its debut outside the US this weekend. (Image © US Navy)

UPDATE 12 July 2014 | The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a no-show at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) this weekend at Fairford in the UK. Airshow organizers confirmed the news today, 10 July 2014. The planned international debut of the troubled 5th generation fighter aircraft is therefore turning into a reputation disaster for Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, the US and UK DoD, plus airshow organizers at Fairford and possibly Farnborough.

Update: The F-35 now also is a no-show for at least the first few days of the Farnborough International Airshow. US Navy vice-admiral David Dunaway on Friday 11 july stated there is ‘no sufficient information to return the F-35B and F-35C fleet to flight’. A further decision is not expected before July 16. Meanwhile, the F-35 program is heavily critized in the media and ridiculed on social media.

Dozens of aircraft have been arriving at Fairford over the last few days, but the F-35s that were supposed to fly over last week already, remain grounded in the US following an engine fire at Eglin Air Force Base on 23 June. There were hopes  that the grounding of the F-35 would be lifted in time for the aircraft to make it to Fairford, but those hopes now seem in vain. The only F-35 at Fairford is a fake model, like the ones that have been on display at airshows for many years. 

The organizers at Fairford said the decision to cancel ‘was a great disappointment given the amount of planning that had gone into bringing the aircraft over to RIAT for its international display debut’. They also say that time ‘is running out’ for the F-35s appearance. Time, however, is not to blame. The teething problems of the F-35, are.

Investigations into the fire at Eglin are ongoing, with the third stage of the Pratt & Whitney F135 being pointed at as the main culprit. It is another severe setback for a weapons program that has already slurped up 400 billion USD and is seven years behind schedule. Potential customers will likely look past this PR-debacle, but in the eyes of the tax paying public, it will be just another example of government waste.

The F-35 can only partially save face by showing up at Fairford at the very last minute or at some time during the weekend. A further airshow visit to the international airshow at Farnborough, starting 14 July, also hangs in the balance.

© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

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