Pentagon Grounds Lockheed F-35 Jets

The Pentagon announced on Monday that more than 15 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets are grounded. All the high-speed ground and flight operations of the fighter jet are temporarily suspended because of the parachutes under the pilot’s ejection seat. The parachutes were discovered to be improperly packed.

The grounding affects the flight testing of the six F-35 jets based in Edwards Air Force Base in California. It also halted the training program using nine units of the fighter jet in Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. It also affected the three planes that are nearly finished in the Lockheed factory in Texas. However, the eight F-35 fighter jets stationed in Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland; are spared from being grounded because they have older version of the ejection seat with properly packed parachutes. Lockheed said that it will probably take 10 days for the first set of properly packed parachutes to be available.

The grounding comes after Pentagon announced that the $382 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is due for a thridreconstruction. They are slowing down orders for the F-35 to allow more time for development testing in order to avoid costly repairs or modifications. Some sources think that the Pentagon will put-off procurement of the fighter jets for the next five years and will only resume on 2017.

According to Richard Aboulafia, defense analyst with the Virginia-based Teal Group, the improperly packed parachutes only adds to the negative news that F-35 has been getting lately.

“There’s a perception that they’re moving too fast on production before ironing out all of the problems, and this is going to reinforce that perception,” said Aboulafia.

The troublesome parachutes were packed by a UK-based Martin Baker Aircraft Corp, a private company, apparently due to confusing instructions.

source: http://www.reuters.com

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