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F-35 fighter fleet grounded

The F-35 fleet has been grounded.
The F-35 fleet has been grounded.
U.S. Department of Defense

The U.S. military announced late July 3 that it has grounded the F-35 fighter jet fleet due to concerns about the aircraft’s sole engine.

The decision is based on the initial investigation of a June 23 incident, in which the engine on an F-35 caught fire as the pilot was preparing to take off from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, according to a statement from Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. The pilot was reportedly not injured, but Kirby said the root cause of the runway incident remains under investigation.

“Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered, and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of engineering data,” Kirby said.

Kirby added that preparations continue for the F-35 to participate in two high-profile air shows in the United Kingdom later this month but that “a final decision will come early next week.”

The stealthy fighter, also known as both the Lightning II and the Joint Strike Fighter, is being developed for the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, as well as for the British military and other friendly foreign forces. It is scheduled to become operational starting with the U.S. Marines in 2015, and thousands of F-35s are to be produced in the coming years.

Maryland-based Lockheed Martin is the jet’s prime contractor and Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney builds the engine, designated the F135. Eglin Air Force Base is home to the 33rd Fighter Wing, which trains F-35 pilots and maintainers.