world of aviation logo

F-35 grounded after engine blade crack discovery

written by WOFA | February 23, 2013

A file image of JSF development aircraft F-35A AF-6 over Edwards AFB.

The discovery of a crack on an engine blade has led the US Department of Defense to ground its fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The “cautionary suspension of flight” follows the discovery of the crack on an F135 engine installed in an F-35A test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base during a routine engine inspection.

“The F-35 Joint Program Office is working closely with Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin at all F-35 locations to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible,” the Defense Department said in a statement. The statement notes that it is “too early to know the fleetwide impact” of the grounding.

The affected engine is being sent to manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s facilities in Connecticut for a “more thorough evaluation and root cause analysis”.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement: “Safety is always our first consideration, and the joint inspection team is focused on ensuring the integrity of the engines across the entire fleet so the F-35s can safely return to flight as soon as possible.”

The grounding comes at the end of a week of bad publicity for the F-35 program in Australia, after the ABC’s Four Corners program aired a highly critical report on the aircraft.

Senior F-35 officials will be attending next week’s Avalon Airshow near Melbourne, including F-35 Joint Program Office chief Lt Gen Chris Bogdan and Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of F-35 business development.



  • Chris


    If you think the F-35 debate in Oz is controversial I can assure that the Gripen purchase in Switerzland is no different. The Fighter Pilot lobby group believe it’s not good enough for the Air Force (sound familiar?) whilst the Socialist Left don’t support the purchase at all and want to scrap the deal. The Defence Minister is in the middle and argues it’s all the country can afford and it needs an F-5 replacement to supplement the small Hornet force. My understanding is that Sweden will only build the NG if Switzerland goes through with the deal and any future Gripen variant hangs on the NG going ahead for starters. SAAB are however being shrewd in proposing an alternative to the F-35 which may be of interest to countries which abandon it on cost/delivery/political grounds. Could this a/c be a viable alternative for Oz? I don’t believe so. Oz will always have a frontline US fighter due to interoperability and *supportability* considerations. I understand there was a particular reason that Sabres were sent to Ubon during the Vietnam War and not Mirages!

  • Terry


    Part of what Australia needs is value for money currently; the F35 is not value for money at $130m plus per plane that is crazy money. F/A18 will be much better value for money at least they have two engines and actually can fly operationally.
    Do not buy the first duds off the F35 production line. Wait for the production process to settle down and for the price to stabilise. Then consider buying what is needed then, maybe the Fleet Air Arm might need 30 VSTOL planes by then, hopefully not at $130m plus per plane.
    We need to consider filling an Australian capability gap this cannot be done by providing our military people with an overpriced day 2 or day 3 fat slow aircraft that is not yet past the development phase and will take years to be operational.

  • Dane


    I think that lines have been blurred when it comes to purchase price of the JSF. Is the $130 million each jet just for the aircraft itself or does that incude the cost of through-life-support? Critics of the JSF have been using the ~$130 miilion price tag and comparing it to the F/A-18E/F price tag of around ~$35 million each, which is for the jet only. LM and the government need to make it clear what the estimated cost includes.

  • Terry


    F35 aircraft $130m each plus through life cost. F/A 18 a lot less plus through life cost. about $100m saving per plane upfront. Also $130m plus per F35 is not yet fixed it is most likely going to rise before delivery. Also F35 does not come with software source code which of course will increase through life cost as lockheed rip us off for updates and software maintenance. F35 is very expensive upfront and to keep flying the most expensive plane we have ever considered buying.

  • Raymond


    John N – yes, I think any additional Super Hornet airframes will come at the expense of final F-35 numbers.

    As you know, unfortunately the current Government is fiscally incompetent and doesn’t even have the option to fund any extra ‘gap fillers’ separately as the Howard Government did, when the then-anticipated 10 year life cost of $6 billion (including initial purchase price of $2.9 billion) was fully supplemented.

    Therefore, the predicament for the Government now is to strike a balance without taking any risks with the RAAF’s air combat capability. They need to get it right for the long term and I suppose they will err on the side of caution. Somehow they need to weigh up whether we can afford to wait out the F-35 or be safe rather than sorry and order another 24 Super’s.

    I don’t exactly envy them, as the F-35 will be a much more capable airframe and well worth the wait, but there’s always that nagging doubt ‘what if’. I trust that they make the best decision.

    “I have had the misfortune to fly a fourth generation fighter against a fifth generation fighter and there was an extreme capability gap…”
    Air Marshal Geoff Brown, AO
    Chief of Air Force, RAAF

Comments are closed.


Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year