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After A Month Of Woes, Joint Strike Fighter Soars Again

September 18, 2011

US F35 02

As August drew to a close, Lockheed Martin relayed news that the rest of the previously grounded F-35 Lightning II fleet was cleared for flight again. This comes after an August 2 incident where an integrated power plant (IPP) built by contractor Honeywell International failed on an F-35.

The momentary grounding of a dozen other F-35’s (a conservative figure closer to reality than this blog’s earlier claim that 40 are operational) further inflamed the already heated debate over the JSF and its older sibling the F-22 Raptor, itself currently not operational.

The problems of the F-22 are well documented in an earlier post.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is earmarked as the new multirole bad ass of the US Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Each service shall operate variants of the same design to suit their unique needs. The Marine Corps, for example, are going to receive a VTOL capable F-35B as a replacement for their aging Harriers.

Thanks to continued fiscal woes and ballooning costs, the challenges facing the F-35 JSF program are threatening its immediate future. New budgetary constraints may shave off the expected numbers (2,500 plus aircraft in XX years) for deployment and just recently, the US Navy expressed its confidence in the X-47B, an unmanned bomber whose features resemble the B-2 Spirit. The X-47B is a carrier based weapon system that could pave the way for large combat UAV formations in different branches.

The US Navy is also adamant about continuing the service life of the F-18 Super Hornet, a variant of the vaunted F-18 but with stealth features.

Earlier last week, the Senate Appropriations defense committee submitted a proposal for a $695 million reduction from the F-35 budget for fiscal year 2012 together with a limited 32-plane per year ceiling. This means only 32 F35s are produced each year until 2014. The proposal, of course, needs to be approved before it comes into effect.

Even though the rest of the F-35 JSF fleet are cleared to fly, the two problematic models that caused the setback stay grounded at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

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