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JSF Still on the Ground?

parked-JSF.jpg

Our boy Bob Cox from the Fort Worth Star Telegram has been watching out for JSF test flights like some UFO nut-job casing Area 51...and we love him for it.

His latest dispatch on Sky Talk is a couple days old, but the stuff he mentions about the shakiness of the F-35's international partners is worth noting - and checking out.

Well yet another day has passed without the F-35 test aircraft returning to flight. As we noted previously on this blog, Lockheed Martin folks were geared up to fly the plane on Tuesday for the first time since a critical problem was discovered on May 3. But that flight was scrubbed shortly before the expected 2:30 p.m. takeoff.

Wednesday came and went without a flight either. No explanations forthcoming from Lockheed officials as to what has happened to delay the return to flight, other than they couldn't complete all the preparations on Tuesday. But another source tells the Star-Telegram that there was a problem discovered with one of the many sensors on board the aircraft.

No word on whether it was a primary system sensor, or a sensor that checks the other sensors!

A spate of news out of the press of nations that are expected to be F-35 buyers indicates considerable nervousness over the aircraft's lack of progress and rising costs. A Dutch government watchdog agency, similar to the US GAO, says the Defence Ministry lacks good cost and updated technical information. Another report, out of Denmark, says Saab, which manufactures the Gripen fighter, is offering major financial participation trying to convince the Danes to forgo the F-35 for the Gripen.

An Australian paper speculates the U.S. government will push the new political bosses Down Under hard to stick with plans to buy the F-35.

The Howard government's $15billion plan to place an order for up to 100 F-35s late next year for delivery in 2013 is now on hold, as the Rudd Government conducts a review of options for the air force.

The review will examine all alternatives in replacing Australia's aged F-111 strike bombers and F/A-18 fighters, including the feasibility of the world's most potent but expensive fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

However, the US is likely to seize the opportunity of a newly elected government to step up the pressure on Canberra to place early orders for the F-35.

Ah, international political intrigue.

We'll see if he shoots us another update from the perch on the roof of his JSF hunter RV. You know he's sitting just outside the security fence with night visions goggles, a sixer at his side and a laptop at the ready.

(Big props to Bob himself, the JSF chaser-in-chief)

[Photo: www.jsf.mil]

-- Christian

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