UPDATED: Adds NAVAIR Letter And JSF JPO, Lockheed Statements

AFA Winter, Orlando: What happens when all the top brass of the Air Force are attending a top conference on a Friday afternoon? Their biggest program, the Joint Strike Fighter, gets its entire fleet grounded because of a crack in a turbine blade. Details began trickling out just as most Air Force brass were headed to the airport after the Air Force Association’s annual conference here ended.

Of course, the F-35 isn’t just the Air Force’s biggest program. It’s the biggest conventional weapons program ever for any country.

Early word is that a low pressure turbine in the engine cracked. The engine is on its way to Pratt & Whitney for a complete check to figure out what happened, why and come up with a fix. We’ve sent emails and called the program office and Lockheed Martin for comment. As soon as it comes in, we’ll update this.

The crack poses “the threat of catastrophic failure,” according to a letter by Naval Air Systems Commander Vice Adm. David Dunaway sent to the Navy Secretary, Chief of Naval Operations, and the Marine Commandant. Dunaway says he will provide an update on the situation no later than March 1, next Friday.

This is not the first grounding of the fleet. The F-35Bs were briefly grounded last month when an improperly crimped hydraulic hose was found in the engine.

Here’s the F-35 Joint Program Office’s statement on the latest problem:

“On Feb 19, 2013, a routine engine inspection revealed a crack on a low pressure turbine blade of an F135 engine installed in a CTOL test aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. Engineering teams are shipping the turbine blade to Pratt & Whitney s Engine Facility in Middletown, CT, to conduct more thorough evaluation and root cause analysis.”

They say it’s,”too early to know the fleet-wide impact of this finding, however as a precautionary measure, all F-35 flight operations have been suspended until the investigation is complete and the cause of the blade crack is fully understood. The F-35 Joint Program Office is working closely with Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin at all F-35 locations to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible.”

Lockheed didn’t say much else, beyond averring that “safety is always our first consideration” and committing themselves to working hard to understand and fix the problem “so the F-35s can safely return to flight as soon as possible.”

This will cost money, of course. The question is, how bad is the problem and is it systemic or a unique problem in this engine. That sound you hear is the grinding of teeth in Lockheed’s headquarters suite.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. Friday and again at 4:05 p.m.

Comments

  • tee

    It is time to Cancel this monstrosity called the “Junk Strike Fighter” and start the F-22 line back up, and start up-grading our current fleet of F-15C’s to F15S and our F-16 C/D’s to F-16S variants now.

    • expert

      typical AF mentality; can’t see beyond their own self-serving sacred fighter programs. JSF isn’t called Joint for nothing. so if JSF is cancelled, what does Navy do for the carrier jet variant replacement, or USMC VSTOL AV-8 replacement, or those many countries heavily invested in 5th generation JSF?

      • CAMarine

        Yep, your right…that dude was clueless…and I let him know how misguided his statements were…..

      • a99weeker

        As Rummey ince said… you don’t go to war with the Army you want, you go to war with the Army you have (or something like that)… kind of like the Army’s personnel/payroll/leave accounting system called DIHMRS. Over 10 years and 10’s of millions and was not much more than a power-point slide presentation of “what it will do when completed”…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258344131 Zbigniew M. Mazurak

        I understand you, but the fact is that the three services’ requirements for combat aircraft are totally different. Marine and Naval strike jets are not fit to be USAF air superiority fighters, and vice versa. This is exactly the #1 reason why the F-35 program has been such a failure: because it attempted to meet all three Services’ needs, and thus, it has produced a “compromise” aircraft that doesn’t really satisfy anyone.

        The USAF should resume F-22 or F-15 production, the Navy should produce more Super Bugs (or upgrade current Bugs) and, in the long term, develop and procure the F/A-XX, while the USMC should retain the F-35B or resume Harrier production.

    • CAMarine

      HEY DUDE, The F22 isn’t engineered to be used by the Navy and Marine Corps PERIOD! I guess you forgot the Navy and Marine Corps do fly the majority of the first strikes off of Carriers…but again, you might be a FLY boy who hasn’t been exposed to the REAL WORD OF FLYING! Your statement is just Laughable!

      • http://www.facebook.com/Recon135 Roberto Benitez

        As a retired AF dude I agree with you. Certainly the AF needs more F-22s, reliable ones, but with the Navy carriers being deployed around the world they need a dedicated fighter that’ll meet their needs as well, and perhaps before the Air Force.

        However, I fear we’re harkening back to the McNamara days and his Switchblade Edsel and trying to deploy an aircraft that will do everything yet satisfy no one.

        Someone who was exposed to the real world of flying

        • CAMarine

          There comes a time, when just because it’s a few years old does it mean we need to replace it….Look the F15 Strike Eagles are still great…and the navy’s F18 Super Hornets are actually the BEST out there….Don’t forget, ALL 3 branches flew the F4 and it had the best winning record of ANY fighter since the P51 Mustang. As far as Macnamara, Chuck Hagel who WILL BE CONFIRMED….and should be….will be a soldiers soldier! And this Marine Officer who happens to be Mustang, would love to see him at the helm !!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/william.moore.9 William Moore

            The F4 was a great attack bomber and interceptor but as a fighter it was mediocre at best. Marine pilots I new referred to it as either a lead sled or a flying dump truck.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258344131 Zbigniew M. Mazurak

          Well, the solution, then, is simple: Navalize the F-22, as Air Power Australia has already proposed and shown how to do. Or, better yet, develop and procure the F/A-XX ASAP.

    • Bob

      Agreed.

    • http://twitter.com/Merciful_Wrath General Wrath

      F-16s are old enough and are barely competitive as it is

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258344131 Zbigniew M. Mazurak

        But the F-15 can, with cheap upgrades, compete with anything other than the F-22, the PAKFA, the J-20, and the J-31.

    • ran76

      doesn’t the Raptor have its own problems? I believe something about pilots not trusting the plane to keep them alive

      • Doug

        actually yes, they have been having oxygen problems along with other teething problems with avionics. I have always said that both of these birds were piles of junk sitting on tires. maybe I will be proven wrong about one of them but with all the cost over-runs both are costing us an arm and leg along with all the other crap we are being stuck with by osama!!!

  • Jim

    SOP. So a thing goes wrong of the zillions that can. You look it over and fix it. Press needs to get out in the world more. And see that not everything works like one thinks i may or might. Nothing is perfect.

    • flyboy

      Exactly however Obama control our media.

      • ran76

        I thought it was the leftist/commie/reptilians that controlled the media

  • DiDi

    The President will not fix, refurbish, build new or renovate old planes. His plan is to make our country defenseless to other nations, deplete the resources of the people who helped to build our economy and insure his own prosperity and those similar “like servants to the people.”

    • flyboy

      Your crying in the wind. That is the plan and eventually China will take us over.

  • bilk7

    Since they decided to go ahead with the F35, dropping GE’s alternative engine was a big mistake. Monopolies lead to lower quality and higher cost. Also, since all military branches are scheduled to have this fighter in the future…..a crack in the only engine could shut down our entire military!

  • Stilleto

    It is also difficult to pinpoint the cause of crack since the fighter is designed to be stealth! Lol

    • flyboy

      Not a problem since it deals with metalorgy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/frank.j.austin Frank J. Austin

        @6da9904bf083143107de6f2a05a434b4:disqus
        metal orgy ? Really “flyboy” ? How does a college grad misspell metalurgy ? I presume that you are a military pilot based on your comments. However, I know that military pilots are commissioned officers. To become commissioned, you must obtain a college degree. Has our higher education system failed this miserably ? If so, forget about the “metalorgy”, we have bigger problems…

        • MichJB

          Before you preach about someone else’s spelling – it’s “metallurgy” – not metalurgy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.hodge.731 James Hodge

    If you care about our American Troops, post “Bring Our Troops Home NOW”
    on EVERY Article. Maybe if our Government reads the same Post from
    EVERYONE, they will wake up and do what Americans want. No more
    Immigration Posts. No more Racist Post. No more Stars with Problems
    Posts. Simply “Bring Our Troops Home Now”. I know it’s a Dream, but if
    Martin Luther King can have a Dream.. then so can I.

    BRING OUR TROOPS HOME NOW

    • Chris

      If I care about our troops I’ll wish for their safe return and when they can’t I’ll wish for them to be safe on and off the battlefield. If I care about our troops I’ll support them as best as I am able rather than post a useless attempt at a chain post that most active military officers, journalists and the like won’t read.

  • veryfrustrated

    F-35 is the Spruce Goose/Flying Folly military aircraft. Numerous flight maneuvers had been performed years ago that proved the F-35 is no better than an Attack aircraft, truth be told the UK, Canada, Israel, and possibly Russia have fighter jets that would fare better in Dog Fights than the F-35. The DOD truly dropped the balled when they moth balled the Raptor project, that is what you get when you think you are going to protect our airspace or that of our allies on the lamb.

    • CAMarine

      Ok Comrade…your definitely a Communist Kool-Aid Drinker!

    • Matt

      FYI the Candians, Brits, and the Israel Air Forces are all under contract to buy the F-35

    • http://twitter.com/Merciful_Wrath General Wrath

      JSF, better look into the flags on the side of some of the models man because oh look, UK, Canada yeah they are there I think Israel is looking to get some too. What kool-aid study was this, made years before the flight of the f-35 that said any were better? sure some may compete but “dog fights” are practically non existent now, its all about detection and weapon range, we got it.

      • Doug

        have you ever really watched clips of any of these birds flying?? hate to say it but I would put the sukhoy mig up against either the f22 or jsf cause that thing will out manuver either of them any day of the week.

  • veryfrustrated

    Oops!, meant ball, not balled, pardon moi.

  • flyboy

    Never knew that we had an operational fleet. These aircraft are for testing only. They find problems before they become operational. As you can see they are doing what has to be done.

  • jon

    china has lots bad parts, just send used one will send new 30 day shipping$ 10.000 shipping verry sorry,

    • http://twitter.com/Merciful_Wrath General Wrath

      a lot of effort for a replacement that will be broken on arrival or soon thereafter

  • Dr. Jim

    Time for the F-19.3.11 alphabet it out.

  • Jack

    shhhhh you’re not supposed to let the enemy hear about this

  • Bob F

    when is the warrenty good for war defence no bid contractor need tohave lifetimewarenty they profit 100’s billions $$$

  • http://www.facebook.com/rj.guzzo Rj Guzzo

    F-16 XL was and is the answer! Same for the F-20 Tigershark! As for the F-35 this plane is junk! Because anyone with a brain cell knows that any plane in service now or experimental that the public is shown, there are aircraft the government and contractors are flying or building that are probably 20 years or more advanced than our latest planes like the F-22 or F-35 in use today! So, there is no excuse for the problems with the F-35!

    • FranciscodAnconia

      Rj…

      Mom says to take off your tin foil hat and come upstairs for dinner.

  • Bass Guitar Hero

    Eh, I prefer the F-22 more myself. And with the constant upgrades to the F-18, each new model is essentially a brand-new fighter, IMO.

    • FranciscodAnconia

      You do realize they are two completely different missions right? The F-22 and F-35 were designed to complement each other. One an air dominance fighter, the other an air to ground platform. They are NOT interchangeable.

      The F-18 is ancient technology compared to the F-35 and is not survivable against modern threats.

      • Bass Guitar Hero

        I don’t CARE whether they’re Navy or Air Force and what YOU think of them. I still like them more.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258344131 Zbigniew M. Mazurak

        The F-35 is not well suited to be an air to ground platform either. And it’s not much more survivable against modern threats than the F-18 (which is, of course, ancient technology). It can’t survive in any airspace where the S-300, S-400, S-500, HQ-9, Su-35, PAKFA, J-20, or J-31 are present. It was designed to be a battlefield interdictor pounding massed enemy tank armies and their short-range air defense systems (like the Tor-M1), and only after the F-22 had destroyed enemy air defense systems and established air superiority. As the F-35 JORD spec admits, the F-35 was designed for a world without the S-300, S-400, S-500, HQ-9, Su-35, PAKFA, J-20, and J-31, i.e. a world which doesn’t really exist and never will.

        The F-35 is redundant, useless, and ineffective. Time to terminate it.

  • Matt

    A crack in a turbine blade is very common, it happens all the time even on comerical jets.
    MSgt USAF (Ret) Aircraft Mechanic for 21 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/boby.brady Brady Boby

    I got the answer send the broken ones to Egypt.

  • RJ

    This program has become the MOST expensive fighter program on record and yet Lockheed just asked -and received- an additional $20M to figure out the LAST problem, and now this. It’s time to end this waste of money and have LMCO return the $469 billion we’ve already spent on these fighters. Enough is enough!

    • a99weeker

      Why aren’t these contracts defined to be $xxx million dollars and a specific deadline. Anything needed after the missed deadline is the builders expense, not refundable by the tax payer. Then once “live” and in use (even if used just for training) there is a 5 year FREE fix/replace time frame. Maybe too simplistic, but the taxpayer does not have endless money to keep funding projects that eventually go no where…

      • FranciscodAnconia

        Because firm fixed price contracts are significantly more expensive than cost plus contracts. If you expect the manufacturer to assume all the risk, they charge you significantly more up front to cover unexpected contingencies. If you agree to not hold the contractor to task for every discrepancy, the price tag is significantly less.

  • http://twitter.com/Merciful_Wrath General Wrath

    More fake made in china parts?

  • GOD SAVE US PLEASE

    what if we just let real amaricans build our planes&fighters stop outsourceing all our jobs let the mexicans work on old chevy & caddys,lowriders,and all that crap. AND let others build planes for there country. We can be a strong country again.dont get me wrong we all need jobs its just some can’t do it right,we have other countrys.thats help building our planes think about it,CHEAP LABOR CHEAP PLANES.GOD SAVE THE USA

    • ran76

      you realize the countries that are helping “build our planes” are entitled to those planes too, right? after all they’re helping to pay for the thing. or does “Joint” have a different definition now a days?

  • Al

    Who is the enemy after Afghanistan…Mali, Sudan??? ….Just let me get my Tax refunds and ground whatever we have.

    • GSUP

      that right

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michyle-S-Glen/1272691952 Michyle S. Glen

    Its time to re-evaluate what the armed forces need as far as high tech devices. I agree with tee, we should cancel the JSG and the F-22 fighters, they were designed for fighing fighters from the Soviet Union. What we need is a fighter that is more a ground support fighter and better equipment for the infrantry and other combat arms. High tech is great but its usually fragile and in the field,, fragile means broken first.

  • pbkittles@aol.com

    Does anyone really beleave Pratt & Whitney or Lockheed Martin would allow this type media unless there was somethin in the back ground they want funded. Tax payer better prepare because we do not say “no” to these defense contractors and God be with the inventor that is not an employee of one of these big government contractors…your life will never be the same.

  • ran76

    well that’s disappointing. hopefully they figure out what happened and fix it soon

  • William trexler

    Man that’s bad news..they will have to pull the engines out for fix…hope they saved a few
    F-16’s…lol..now how low was that bid on the contract…double..lol lol..

  • Airburst

    This pentagon weapons program sounds a bit like obama care, as in, ” We need to pass the bill to find out whats in it.” Just another example of an out-of-control weapons program with the foxes watching over the hen house.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.urbach Gregory Urbach

    $400 billion dollars for an aircraft that can only fly for short ranges and has no defined combat mission. Are you feeling safer? The next time the military says they need this, that, or the other thing, remember programs like the F-35 are what put our country deep into debt.

  • Michael Parks

    The fact that there are cutbacks on our snow removal by the highway department, who now take longer than ever before to do anything, is linked to the sucking of money from the citizens, and giving it to the “defense” contractors (on a no-bid and cost-plus arrangement at times).
    I’d rather be able to clean the dangerous snow off the road. Bet way more people died on highways in the snow last week, than in crazy-person terrorist shoot ‘em ups.
    Maybe we should be getting a rebate from P. & W. and the bunch of ‘em.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258344131 Zbigniew M. Mazurak

    Put this program out of its misery NOW. Get the Marines a super harrier, give the Navy the F/A-XX, resume Eagle production for the USAF.

  • xxxx

    f-22 is too much a plane for a human to fly I think is the real problem with it. F-35 is a lot of technology stuffed into a big idea. Then you have companies getting paid off for their close ties instead of their quality of output. And then all the garbage we inport from china that is crap that goes into these. I am thinking its another program to break our economy and destroy our military,…

  • HENRYSBASEBALL

    http://WWW.HENRYSBASEBALLCLUB.COM 781 891 0621 ABOUT 200 BASEBALL JOBS CAME IN LAST WEEK!!

  • Brian

    Well there’s probably one thing you can guarantee, the broken part was probably made in China.

  • kiD

    The cost of one of these planes can put hundreds of teachers to work and repair schools
    that are falling apart. Dumb ass government spending as usual.

  • http://twitter.com/Dmrlex Dwight L. Wing

    in the end the US wont go down without a fight

  • Ted

    When you get right down to it this project is a MASSIVE PORK project that no one will attempt to terminate. The F-35, the most expensive aircraft ever, is a 57 Edsel with no wheels.

  • James

    Is this multi-billion dollar farce too big to cancel? A lot of congressmen will be asking the same question the closer it come to re-election time? Hundreds of thousands of jobs are stake in more than forty states. Eisenhower made the right call in his farewell address to beware of the military-industrial complex.

  • George C

    test

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikola.zekic Nikola Zekic

    imperfections in the metal, use vacuum for pour

  • mlnw

    This program at this point is said to have reached $400 billion, and its total cost over the life of the program including operational costs was estimated by the GAO four years ago to exceed $1 trillion, so you just know it will be even more than that. Yet the planes seem so fragile that every other day something else goes wrong. Ted Cruz and Lindsay Graham are not only worried about Chuck Hagel kowtowing to their Israeli masters, they are worried that Hagel will take a surgeons knife to these procurement boondoggles and finally put a stake through their heart before they suck more blood out of the economy.

  • Jim

    This is what happens when you farm the job out to China and let them know what the part is for. They have been sending the US Military faulty, defective equipment for years and we never call them on it. Maybe a HUGE embarrassment like this will wake America up!

  • ~G

    Guess we can scrap the fleet and give it to Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. After all, isn’t that what the Obama Administration does best… ARM OUR ENEMIES???!!!??? (Fast and Furious, Benghazi… etc…etc… etc…)

    • mikee

      Hey brainiac, you should expand your administrations to include the past, oh 20 presidents. Have you ever heard of the Iran Contra affair?? History doesn’t begin at the moment of conveniency in arguments.

  • mikee

    Who cares. Dump ALL of those manned planes. All we need are a bunch of drones. No one is a threat to get killed, or captured. Pilots are going to get phased out soon, wait and see. Damn, we could eliminate the deficit if we went to an unmanned Air Force and unmanned mechanized divisions. It’s a good thing the gaming industry came around, huh?

  • Maxell

    This is great,first the F-22 now this monster. Keep it simple stupid. The more complicated they make this crap the more it fails.. We need a General Patton overseeing these bogus programs. The F-14, F-15 F16 F18 were just fine who the hell are we going to fight anyway? The Russians? The Chinese and North Koreans are the ones we need to worry about and all we need to do there is push a button BOOM!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.france.319 Decimus Mabus

    The Chinese already have the F-35 design and are building them. Boeing was hacked into and now usa needs an F-36 to stay ahead. The F-36 will cost 200 million each with 50 million a year cost to upkeep. Only the weapon companies executives and stock holders will profit with trickle down for the workers here and overseas. The taxpayer gets the bills and the allies with multinationals get the protection.

  • Chris

    The last thing we need is for our air warriors need is to have something like that screwing with them mid dog fight or bombing run.

  • Winner!!!!!

    ..we don’t need them…’defend our Country’..for what?..we are broke and have nothing! Probably more Rules and Law’s than others..more useless people and no Natural Resources… And on top of it we are Strategically placed on the Planet 3 sides by water and Canada surely will not let no one in…let’s not forget the 2nd also

  • mofots

    What a boondoggle this aircraft has become..I understand it can’t fly in the rain too..

  • REB

    Zero Defects and Excellence must apply to all manufactured items, even Turbine blades.
    One non-perfectionist in the organization can screw it up for everyone.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/ZVFM2HRNC5CTO2OUXD4XTX65O4 Dennis

    Try GE engines next time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Johnson/100001055868824 Robert Johnson

    Another prime example of the waste in the Air Force and DOD. Similar to the V-22 Osprey aka “the Marine Killer”, the F-35 program has been plagued with problems. The Air Force has 50+ different kinds of planes in their inventory which begs the question, why?

    What is needed is a one size fits all fighter that all branches of the Military can use. The Brits have that with the Harrier. Superior US technology can not design a plane like the Harrier?

  • Ldavid

    Check the battery cables

  • Bill Morgan

    Biggest waste of money the DOD has ever come up with..None of the Service Branches EVEN want it. How many head start programs would 1 of these planes finance????Cancel this piece of junk

  • rodney king

    Can’t we all just get along?

  • RLABruce

    Great! They just told the world we no longer have stealth fighters able to fly! I feel SO much safer now, don’t you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Taylor/100001056840582 John Taylor

    I remember that the Osprey used to have a world of problems. Solved them. Why not give the same chance to this. Or maybe they were just afraid that John McLain would drop another computer ionto the lift fans.

  • Kev55nf

    Another waste of the taxpayers money

  • Joe

    AOL: You news reports are written like a newstand paper like the infamous “Enquirer.” If you want to be a legitimate source for news then LOSE the BullCrap and report with the facts. As far as the F-35B fighter, I am sure “Pratt & Whitney” the engine maker will figure out the quality problem, Why are you blasting Lockheed Martin?

  • http://www.facebook.com/george.mccollum.1 George McCollum

    “Why do people gotta act like that !””

  • m

    carbon fibers is the answer

  • Danny Dalton

    we probably save millions everytime these planes get grounded…need to take a good hard look what we really require for this countries defense….obviously we cant win a prolonged ground war….lets put our money where it makes sense