The mishap that occurred on December 15, 2022, with an F-35B fighter bomber in its STOVL (short take-off and vertical landing) configuration during a test flight in Fort Worth, Texas, while the aircraft was still under the responsibility of its manufacturer, Lockheed-Martin, led to several different outcomes.
As a result, and pending the findings of the investigation, which appears to be moving towards a failure of a tube used to send high-pressure fuel to the F-135 engine, the Pentagon has decided to restrict flights for a number of planes. This decision was made in light of the fact that the investigation is moving towards the failure of the tube. As a result of this, a portion of the Israeli Air Force’s fleet of F-35 “Adir” aircraft, which are descended from the “original” version [F-35A, editor’s note] of the Lockheed-Martin aircraft, has been rendered inoperable.
In addition, acceptance flights for newly delivered aircraft have been halted until the inquiry is being conducted, which will have the practical impact of delaying deliveries for the last two weeks of December. This indicates that Lockheed-Martin was unsuccessful in accomplishing its goals for the year 2022 since only 141 of the 148 F-35 aircraft contractually slated for delivery were delivered.
The delivery of brand-new F-135 engines, which were previously provided by Pratt & Whitney, has been temporarily halted as a further consequence. On December 27, a decision was made about this matter.
According to an explanation provided by the Department of Defense, The F-35 Joint Program Office and Pratt & Whitney have agreed to delay scheduled deliveries and acceptance of the F-135 engines until further information regarding the investigation [of the crash of the December 15, editor’s note] are known, and that flight safety can be ensured.
The United States Air Force worried there might be a scarcity of F-135 jet engines in the year 2028 due to longer repair durations, some of which were caused by undisclosed faults in engine blade coatings. According to what was revealed, even though these cracks “do not pose a threat to the safety of flight,” they “do shorten the useful life of an engine.”
Since then, there has been no change in this circumstance. In a study that was issued in July 2022 by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), it was said that an increasing number of F-35 jets could not fly due to a lack of engines in good condition to perform. And to sound the alarm that the price of engine maintenance may skyrocket by 2028, rising from 315 million to one billion dollars.
Anyway, at the end of December, the Pentagon and Lockheed-Martin came to an agreement that was worth 30 billion dollars and related to the production and delivery of 398 F-35s divided into three batches [numbers 15, 16, and 17], the last of which included the planes that Belgium, Finland, and Poland ordered. This deal was finalised at the end of December 2022.