WASHINGTON - Reuters
The Pentagon and the US Navy have withdrawn flight limitations on the Marine Corps version of the F-35 fighter jet, clearing the way for testing. REUTERS photo
The Pentagon and U.S. Navy have lifted flight restrictions on the Marine Corps version of the F-35 fighter jet, clearing the way for testing and training flights to resume after a nearly month-long grounding, military officials said on Feb. 13.
The decision would allow officials to quickly resume flight tests of the F-35B, the Marines’ version of the new warplane being built by Lockheed Martin Corp, said Colonel Kevin Killea, who oversees aviation requirements for the Marine Corps.
He said, however, that the Navy and the F-35 program office had more work to do to resolve the manufacturing issues blamed for the grounding.
Resumption of test and training flights of the F-35B is good news for the $396 billion F-35 program, which must complete an aggressive schedule of test flights this year to keep the program on track after earlier delays.
The Pentagon and the Navy grounded all 25 F-35B jets on Jan. 18 after a fuel line made by Stratoflex, a unit of Parker Hannifin Corp, detached just before a training flight in Florida on Jan. 16. The Pentagonlater said the issue stemmed from a manufacturing defect, not maintenance or design issues.
Hoses inspected Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon’s F-35 program office, said all 25 F-35 B-model warplanes were cleared for flight as soon as any defective fuel lines had been replaced. He said all the affected hoses had been inspected and those found to have problems would be
replaced. The hose in question is part of the exhaust system on the F-35B, which can take off from short runways and land like a helicopter.
Stratoflex is a subcontractor to Britain’s Rolls Royce Plc , but the prime contractor for the F-35B engine isPratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.