What does the grounding of the entire F-35 fleet mean for the $400 billion programme’s future?

Contributor:  Andrew Elwell
Posted:  02/25/2013  12:00:00 AM EST
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Tags:   f-35

After discovering a crack on a low pressure turbine blade of an F135 engine last week, Lockheed Martin took the precautionary measure of suspending all test flights of the Joint Strike Fighter. The engine is used in all three F-35 variants.

The company said in a press release that “it is too early to know the fleet-wide impact of this finding.” It could be that the impact turns out to be minor. However, for the worlds most costly and ambitious defence programme, which is already seven years behind schedule and 70% over budget, can any impact at all be described as minor?

Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, the Pentagon’s programme chief, told reporters in Melbourne that this hiccup was “unfortunate” but not out of the ordinary for development testing on a programme of this size.

The F-35 had only resumed service for a matter of days following the month-long suspension of its STOVL variant when the latest engine troubles were discovered. This set-back is not what the developers needed for a programme already under intense political scrutiny, especially with the threat of sequestration hanging over the US defence budget.

The F-35 is the most technologically advanced jet ever conceived; it's no surprise that it's encountering "teething" problems such as this. But considering the massive delays and spiralling costs, I'm not sure that's the point anymore.

What do you think this means for the JSF? Just a bump in the road or a final nail in the coffin? Send your thoughts to haveyoursay@defenceiq.com.

Andrew Elwell Contributor:   Andrew Elwell

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