UK & World News

  • 11 July 2014, 2:45

F-35 Fighter Jet Misses UK Debut After Fire

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not make its much-anticipated UK debut on Friday.

The fighter jet, which has been touted as the future of RAF operations, was due to fly in the UK for the first time but has been grounded after another jet caught fire last week.

Engineers in the US are working to find out the cause. Until they are satisfied that the problem is isolated to that one aircraft, the rest of the fleet has been grounded.

"The safety of pilots and aircraft has to be our priority," said the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

"Of course, it is disappointing that the Lightning II has not arrived in the UK in time for the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).

"But we fully support the decision not to grant clearance for the aircraft to make their first transatlantic flight to the UK until the technical investigations are complete."

Depending on a quick outcome, the jets could make the transatlantic trip over the weekend to appear at the Farnborough Air Show early next week.

In total, four are expected to fly over. To coincide with their appearance, the UK government is expected to announce how many aircraft it will buy in the first tranche.

Later in the decade, the F-35 will fly off the new Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier which was named last week. It can take off on a short runway and land vertically, like its predecessor the Harrier.

The F-35 Lightning II programme has been beset by problems. Aircraft have been grounded on a number of occasions and it is running wildly over budget.

Different versions are being built by Lockheed Martin for the US Marines, US Air Force and US Army. The UK is known as a Tier One partner, meaning it is the most important contributor after the Pentagon.

Despite much criticism and speculation over the aircraft's future, Washington and London won't back out.

"The UK remains fully committed to the F35 programme," the MoD has assured.

"Technical issues are not unexpected during the development test phase of a new aircraft, especially one as advanced as the fifth generation Lightning II.

"The grounding is not expected to have a significant impact on the programme and we are on track for the UK's aircraft to achieve their initial operating capability in 2018."

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