F-35 fighter jets grounded while investigation into engine fire is carried out

The aircraft was to make its debut at Farnborough Airshow, but is now being examined by the US military

The world's most advanced fighter jet has been grounded by US military investigators following an engine fire, it was revealed yesterday.

Hopes of seeing the world's most advanced fighter jet make its debut in Britain faded last week faded after the US military refused to allow it to fly while its investigation continued. The US F-35 joint strike fighter, in which Britain has a stake, had been expected to be the star attraction at this weekend's Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford, which ends today. It was also expected to star at this week's Farnborough Air Show, opening tomorrow.

But an aborted take-off in which part of the engine ripped out through the top of the plane and caused a fire, as an F-35 was preparing to take to the skies from an air base in Florida last month, resulted in the entire fleet being grounded.

"At this time, I do not have sufficient information to return the F-35B and F-35C fleet to flight," Vice Admiral David Dunaway, who heads the US Navy's air systems command, said in a memorandum obtained by Reuters news agency. He claimed there was "no discernible event that represents a root cause".

As for the chances of the fighter coming to Britain this week, he said: "There are specific additional evaluation conditions required to support the Farnborough Air Show in the UK, including the ferry flight across the Atlantic and performance in the air show itself."

Investigations by the US military are continuing, and an update is expected by Wednesday.

British defence officials admitted yesterday that the F-35's appearance at Farnborough Air Show is in doubt. In a statement, a Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson said: "The safety of pilots and aircraft has to be our priority. We fully support the decision not to grant clearance for the aircraft to make their first transatlantic flight to the UK until the technical investigations are complete. Should clearance be granted in the coming days, we will work with the US marine corps to facilitate the aircraft's participation in the Farnborough International Air Show."

The F-35 fleet grounding is "not expected to have a significant impact on the programme and we are on track for the UK's aircraft to achieve their initial operating capability in 2018", the spokesperson said.

But this is the latest in a series of setbacks for the F-35, whose Lightning II variant is the state-of-the-art replacement for Britain's retired Harrier jump-jet fleet. Years of delays and technical problems have caused the cost of each plane to soar to £100m. Earlier this year, Michael Gilmore, the US military's chief weapons tester, called the software performance of the advanced stealth fighter "unacceptable".

Production was also disrupted after it was discovered last year that the fuel tank could explode if struck by lightning, along with a design fault which hindered the fighter from being able to descend rapidly to low altitude. Tests by the United States air force and Lockheed Martin, the aircraft's manufacturer, also discovered cracks in parts of the plane.

The number of fighters Britain is likely to end up buying has already been slashed from the 138 envisaged by the last government to about 48, and an order will not be placed until after next year's strategic defence and security review. In the meantime, Britain's new aircraft carriers will have to wait until the end of the decade before the planes they need are ready.

Responding to the news yesterday General Lord Dannatt, former chief of defence staff, said: "Where matters of safety are involved, rushing procedures just to be able to appear at Farnborough would be very unwise. Like all leading-edge technology, a programme like the F-35 is bound to be prone to delays and cost overruns. I hope the MoD has made sensible provision for this."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing