A new flock of F-35 Lightning IIs reached Europe on Wednesday 29 June. A Royal Air Force F-35B touched down at a rainy Fairford airbase on its first ever visit to the UK, accompanied by two United States Marine Corps (USMC) F-35Bs. The three jets arrived after a transatlantic flight from the US and will take part in airshows at Fairford and Farnborough over the next few weeks.
The aircraft’s arrival marks the second time in just over a month that Lockheed Martin’s 5th generation fighter jet flies to Europe. Last month, two Royal Netherlands Air Force F-35As arrived in the Netherlands for a three-week stay, also appearing at the type’s very first airshow outside the US.
The three jets were supposed to arrive on Monday already, but an issue with one of two supporting US Air Force tankers caused a 48-hour delay.
For Lockheed Martin, the F-35’s presence in Fairford and Farnborough is a major PR-moment, especially after the failed attempt to get the new jet to the UK in 2014. Joining the three F-35Bs should be two US Air Force F-35As from Luke Air Force Base. These are scheduled to arrive in the UK on Thursday.
The British F-35B should give a full role demo display, while the USMC jets will fly in formation with a KC-130 tanker during the airshow. The US Air Force F-35A is supposed to take part in a heritage flight. The airshow at Fairford also marks the first time the F-35 and its bigger stablemate, the F-22 Raptor, jointly take part in an airshow in European skies.
The United States Marine Corps on Monday 25 January stated it is sending two Lockheed Martin F-35Bs Lightning II to the UK this summer. The fighter jets will appear at two airshows in July, being the Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford and the Farnborough International Airshow. The F-35’s appearance will make up for a ditched attempt two years ago.
The two airshows are both held in July and should also see participation of US Air Force F-35A variants. A total of five aircraft are expected to cross the Atlantic. The USMC reached Initial Operation Capability (IOC) in July 2015, whereas the US Air Force is still working towards IOC.
Despite today’s announcement, it could very well be the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) that debuts the F-35A on its first international airshow. In May, the RNLAF plans to fly one of its two F-35As to the Netherlands for noise tesing and an airshow at Leeuwarden airbase, although nothing is certain yet. More on the Dutch visit is in this feature story at Airheadsfly.com.
What is certain, is the presence of two F-35As in Europe already. They are two aircraft produced at FNM Aeronautics’ Final Assembly and Check-Out (FACO) facility in Cameri, Italy. The first of those made its first flight on 7 September 2015. The Italians will fly at least one F-35 transatlantic to the US next month and have no known plans for participation in European airshows yet.
The fire that broke out on a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II in June 2014 not only ruined the type’s international show debut at both Fairford and Farnborough air show in the UK, but also caused 50 million USD worth of damage to the aircraft. The Accident Investigation Board released its report on 5 June.
A failure in the third-stage rotor of the Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine fan module caused the fire as the F-35 was rolling for take off at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on 23 June 2014. The pilot aborted the take off and quickly exited the aircraft. Emergency crews extinguished the fire.
Pieces of the failed rotor arm cut through the engine’s fan case, the engine bay, an internal fuel tank, plus hydraulic and fuel lines before exiting through the aircraft’s upper fuselage. The damage caused leaking fuel and hydraulic fluid to ignite and burn the rear two thirds of the aircraft.
The fault that caused the fire was identified earlier and according to reports a fix should be implemented into the entire existing F-35 Lightning II fleet by this time next year.
The fire led to a temporary grounding of the entire F-35 fleet, prohibiting three aircraft from crossing the Atlantic and taking part in two airshows in the UK, which would have marked the fighter aircraft’s international airshow debut. The no-show was an embarrassment to Lockheed Martin and the entire international F-35 program, the total cost of which exceeds 400 billion USD.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 will definitely not be on show at the Farnborough International Airshow, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday 15 July. The decision follows a glimmer of hope that existed earlier today, as the grounding of the F-35 was lifted and replaced by a ‘limited flight clearance’.
The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin said the decision is disappointing, but necessary as a safety precaution. The entire F-35 Lightning II fleet was grounded on 3 July, after the Pratt & Whitney F-135 engine on one aircraft malfunctioned at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on 23 June. An investigation into the cause is ongoing. Four US Marines F-35Bs and one Royal Air Force F-35B were poised to fly to the UK.
The F-35 on 12 and 13 July also missed the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford. The trade airshow at Farnborough started on 14 July and ends 20 July with a public flying display at the airfield outside London. The visits to both airshows were to be the debut of the F-35 Lightning II, which is the result of a 400 billion USD defence program. The program faced a lot of criticism over the last few weeks following the incident and subsequent grounding.
UPDATE 15 July 2014 | The Farnborough International Airshow outside London kicked off on Monday 14 July under glorious skies. Airheadsfly.com is present to keep up to date with the latest aviation industry news, like the official announcement – as expected – of the Airbus A330neo. The press conference – the first of many at the show – around the A330neo drew a lot of attention on Monday morning.
The Lockheed martin F-35 Lightning II was supposed to headline the Farnborough airshow, but a press release stated on Sunday that the 5th generation Lockheed Martin aircraft will not be present at the the start of the airshow, for the same reason it failed to show up during this weekend’s airshow at Fairford. The grounding order for the F-35 was lifted on Tuesday 15 July, and replaced by a ‘limited flight clearance’. Wether that means the F-35 may show up after all at Farnborough, is still shrouded in clouds.
The US however already sent a strong delegation from Boeing, with two Dreamliners present, one which is the new 787-9, which just entered service with launch customer Air New Zealand.
Making its airshow debut was Textron AirLand’s outside-the-box Scorpion Jet, a twin tailed, twin engined and multipurpose light jet aircraft. The jet is a perfect example of a keep-it-simple mentality that seems mostly unheard of n today’s aviation industry. The Scorpion Jet first flew in December 2013, and crossed the Atlantic with no hassle on the way to the UK.
Airbus however took center stage in de flying display with the Airbus A380, A350WXB and A400M tactical airlifter. The flying program at Farnborough also included a unique combined display by Alenia Aermacchi’s M-345 (indeed in Frecce Tricolori colours) and M-346 advanced jet trainer, plus the locally developed T-129 ATAK helicopter from Turkish Aerospace Industries.
Orders But foremost, Farnborough is the place for big business. Airbus noted dozens of orders from BOC Aviation, SMBC Aviation Capital and AerCap for its Airbus A320 family, plus more importantly, 24 orders for the new Airbus A330neo from launch customer Air Lease Corporation, not to mention 60 A321neo orders from the same company. Boeing shook hands with leasing company CIT Group over ten additional 787-9 Dreamliners, next to an earlier order for ten aircraft. Bombardier bagged dozens of potential orders for its CSeries, despite the new aircraft being absent at the show.
Also absent to a large extend where delegations from Russia – the 103-seat Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100) being an exception. The crisis over Ukraine caused a stir over UK visas for Russian delegates, following which Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin advised Russian delegates at the airshow to “return home”.
The Farnborough International Airshow closes of with a public airshow on 19 and 20 July. Further news regarding the possible late arrival of the F-35, is expected within a few days, although the chances of it indeed appearing look slim.