Pentagon Returns F-35 to Service After Grounding

The Joint Strike Fighter returned to service Thursday evening after U.S. military officials ended the six day grounding of the F-35.

Pentagon leaders decided to ground all three versions of the F-35 after officials discovered a cracked engine blade. The U.S. military grounded the fifth generation fighter until it could be determined it was not a more wide spread problem.

The U.S. plans to buy 2,443 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as part of the $396 billion program, the most expensive program in the U.S. military’s history.

The F-35 with the cracked engine blade was shipped from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., to Connecticut where it was inspected by Pratt & Whitney officials – makers of the F-35 engine. Two Pratt & Whitney sources told Reuters in a report earlier in the week that the problem was minor and the F-35 should return to the air shortly.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the F-35 program chief, scolded Pratt & Whitney as well as the lead defense company for the Joint Strike Fighter program, Lockheed Martin, in comments he made Tuesday at the Australia International Air Show in the midst of the grounding.

“What I see Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney doing today is behaving as if they are getting ready to sell me the very last F-35 and the very last engine and are trying to squeeze every nickel out of that last F-35 and that last engine,” Bogdan said.

He accused Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney of not taking investment risks or looking to control costs in the program.

“I want them both to start behaving like they want to be around for 40 years,” Bogdan said. “I want them to take on some of the risk of this program, I want them to invest in cost reductions, I want them to do the things that will build a better relationship. I’m not getting all that love yet.”

It’s the second time Bogdan has publicly slammed Lockheed Martin for its work on the F-35. In September, just days before he officially took over the program, Bogdan called the relationship between the military’s F-35 program office and Lockheed Martin “the worst [he’s] every seen.”

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