Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today that there’s no timetable on when the F-35 fleet may be able to hit the skies again.
A week ago, the Pentagon grounded the entire fleet in the wake of a runway fire at Eglin Air Force Base. Hagel arrived at the Florida installation Thursday to talk with pilots from the 33rd Fighter Wing.
There are 97 F-35s in the DoD — 28 delivered to test units and 69 to operational or training units — with more than 16,000 flight hours combined.
“The root cause of the 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,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said July 3. “Defense Department leadership supports this prudent approach.”
“Preparations continue for F-35 participation in international air shows in the United Kingdom, however a final decision will come early next week.”
Hagel said that inspections have been completed, but final determinations have yet to be made.
“I got a good report this morning from some of the pilots and the maintenance people, as I noted, on their thinking about this. What they’re doing now is they’re taking all the information that they got from the inspections and they’re putting all that together and continuing the overall investigation to see, how does this all match up and what do we have?” Hagel said.
“I’ve said here, said it before, we’re not going to put the F-35 in the air, send it anywhere until we are absolutely convinced and know that it’s safe to fly. And that means, as to timing, I’ll leave that up to the experts who will come back to us and make a recommendation.”
The F-35B Lightning IIs were supposed to debut at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Britain today, but that appearance was canceled, reported BBC.
“Despite everyone’s best endeavours, it has now been decided that the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II will not fly at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2014 as all of the aircraft currently remain grounded,” said the airshow organizers.