By Debbie Gregory.
The F-35 program, the most expensive weapons system ever made, has had a rough couple weeks. In September, a ground fire during training and a supply issue led the Air Force to suspend flight operations for 15 F-35As.
But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein isn’t worried. He said he was “very confident that we’re going to be getting this fixed.”
The faulty cooling lines affected a total of 57 aircraft. On Sept. 16, 15 of the F-35As were found to have faulty coolant line insulation, which had begun to peel. The additional 42 jets were in various stages of production.
The F-35 joint program office rolled out a retrofit plan for those jets, which involves cutting into the wings and removing the insulation from around the coolant lines and inside the fuel tank.
Then, on September 23rd, an F-35A burst into flames before takeoff during an exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. The fire was extinguished and although the jet was damaged, the pilot was unharmed.
The plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, has delivered 108 F-35As. The Air Force plans to buy 1,763 of the jets.
Of the 15 grounded aircraft already in the field, 10 had been declared combat ready, one was being used in testing, and the final four were for training, with two of those four training aircraft belonging to the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
The F-35A is the Air Force’s version of the jet. The U.S. Marines and the U.S. Navy will also have their own F-35 variants.
Neither of the Marines’ or Navy’s aircraft were affected.