|A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B lands at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona in this handout photo taken November 20, 2012. (REUTERS/U.S. Marine Corps/DVIDS/Cpl. Shelby Shields/Handout)
MELBOURNE - The grounding of Lockheed Martin Corp’s F-35 fighter fleet last week due to a crack found in the engine of one test aircraft would not delay major milestones or delivery of the aircraft, the Pentagon’s F-35 program chief said on Monday.
All flights by the 51 F-35 fighter planes were suspended on Friday after a routine inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade in the jet engine of a test aircraft in California.
U.S. Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan told reporters in Melbourne that the kind of problem identified on Friday was unfortunate but normal and expected during development and testing of a new aircraft, and further problems were likely as testing progressed.
Bogdan and other high ranking F-35 executives are in Australia to promote progress on the $396 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Pentagon’s biggest weapons program.
Bogdan said there was no sign that any of the countries signed up to purchase the next generation fighter were reconsidering their involvement beyond previously announced delays and reductions in orders.
Current plans for F-35 warplane orders from U.S., allies:
The United States and its allies plan to buy thousands of new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter warplanes in coming years. Following is a list of the planned purchases, according to data provided by Lockheed Martin Corp, the prime contractor for the $396 billion weapons program.
Lockheed is developing three variants for the U.S. military services and eight partner countries that helped fund the plane’s development - Britain, Australia, Italy, Turkey, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Canada.
Two other countries, Italy and Japan, have also placed orders for the fighter jet. The conventional landing A-model will be used by the U.S. Air Force and most allies; the B-model, which can take off from shorter runways and land like a helicopter, will be used by the U.S. Marine Corps, Italy and Britain; and the C-model, or carrier variant, will be used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. U.S. Air Force 1,763 F-35As U.S. Navy 260 F-35Cs U.S. Marine Corps 340 F-35Bs and 80 F-35Cs Britain 138 F-35Bs Turkey 100 F-35As Australia 100 F-35As Italy 60 F-35As and 30 F-35Bs Netherlands 85 F-35As Canada 65 F-35As Norway 52 F-35As Japan 42 F-35As Denmark 30 F-35As Israel 19 F-35As