The U.S. military cleared the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter to resume flight operations last week, ending a grounding of more than three weeks that was ordered after a fuel line failed in a test aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
An “improperly crimped” fueldraulics line is the probable cause of a fuel leak that led the U.S. military to suspend flight operations of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, which was grounded on January 18.
Flight operations of the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (Stovl) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter remained suspended this week as U.S. military and contractor engineering teams investigated the cause of an engine fueldraulic line failure in a test aircraft at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The fueldraulic line is part of the fuel-based hydraulic system that controls the actuators of the F-35B’s vectoring exhaust system. The grounding did not affect the F-35A and C models, respectively, the conventional takeoff and carrier variants.
The U.S. Air Force declared the joint-service pilot training and maintenance wing for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter “ready for training” the first instructor pilots on the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant, beginning in January. Next summer, the wing will begin training Navy pilots on the F-35C carrier variant of the fifth-generation fighter.
After protracted negotiations, Lockheed Martin reached an agreement in principle with the Pentagon for the fifth lot of low-rate initial production F-35s (LRIP-5). The company has reported new flight-test milestones for the Lightning II stealth fighter in recent weeks. But there was less good news from Canada, which is reconsidering its commitment to the F-35 on cost grounds.
Sales of U.S. military aircraft will fall by 2.4 percent this year to $58.2 billion, the lowest level since 2006, according to a preliminary estimate of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). Sales are expected to decline by another 10 percent in next year as budget cuts force the Pentagon to reduce procurement spending, the association said in its year-end review and forecast, released earlier this month.
Lockheed Martin, the largest U.S. government contractor with $46 billion in annual sales, appointed its first female chief executive on November 9 after CEO-in-waiting Christopher Kubasik resigned over a “close personal relationship with a subordinate employee,” the company announced. The Bethesda, Md.-based company named Marillyn Hewson, 58, to take over as president and CEO on January 1, succeeding outgoing CEO Robert Stevens.
Flight-testing of the Lockheed Martin F-35 is ahead of the 2012 plan, and software development is making up lost ground, now standing at two months behind schedule. Steve O’Bryan, Lockheed Martin’s v-p for F-35 program integration and business development, told a meeting in London sponsored by The Air League that the F-35B STOVL version that the UK will buy is 40 percent ahead on flights and test points. Of the nine million lines of software code in the aircraft, 87 percent is now in flight test, with another 6 percent in laboratory tests.
The UK formally accepted the first F-35 Lightning II for an international customer on July 19. “Having taken decisions on the final designs of our new aircraft carriers and balanced the MoD’s budget we can now proceed confidently to regenerating our carrier strike capability with these cutting-edge stealth combat aircraft,” said British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.
Lockheed Martin executives contend that a new Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) that will provide long-term maintenance support for the F-35 Lightning II is evolving in line with the fighter. The ALIS was cited among F-35 program risks in a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.