The RAAF is expected to base the Joint Strike Fighter at two bases: Williamtown, in New South Wales, and Tindal, in the Northern Territory, where 1.5 billion USD facilities and infrastructures to support the new fifth generation radar-evading plane will be built.
Ahead of the ceremony, Lockheed Martin unveiled to media the second F-35 (top image), AU-2, which already wears the standard overall grey color scheme along with the RAAF roundels and tail marking of the No 2 Operational Conversion Unit from RAAF Williamtown.
The root cause of the fire has been identified in excessive rubbing between the turbine blades and the cowling, a problem not endemic to the fleet, based on the inspections of the other F-35 engines; still something that must be closely monitored.
That’s why the return to flight is restricted: the F-35s can’t fly faster than Mach 0.9 and are limited to 18 degrees of angle of attack. The envelope is limited from -1 G to +3 Gs and, above all, after three hours of flight time, each front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope.
Sporting the brand new two-tone dark gray over light gray paint scheme, that has replaced the original flat light gray livery, the aircraft will be on display with several weapons models including Raytheon Griffin Missiles, Boeing JDAM and SDBs, Textron Systems Weapon & Sensor Systems G-CLAWs, Raytheon Enhanced Paveway 4, and Lockheed Martin Hellfire and DAGR.
Although it will not accommodate any air-to-air or air-to-surface radar, the Scorpion will be able to carry various infrared air-to-air missiles and wing-mounted gun pods that could be useful, among the others, for SMI (Slow Mover Interception) missions.
Indeed, at 3,000 USD per flight hour and with stall speeds of less than 100 knots, Scorpion jet could really represent a cost-effective solution to enforce Temporary Flight Restrictions and NFZs (No Fly Zones) to protect chunks of the U.S. airspace.
The journey to the UK included stopovers in Montréal (Canada), Keflavik (Iceland), Edinburgh (UK) and Chalgrove (UK).
The F-35 fleet was gronded once again based on initial findings from runway fire incident occurred last week.
The Pentagon has officially announced that all its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jets has been grounded following the runway fire incident which involved an F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, on Jun. 23.
The news came just ahead of the long weekend for U.S. Independence Day, as Joint Strike Fighters were expected to cross the Pond to take part to Farnborough International Air Show and Royal International Air Tattoo, in the UK next week.
The participation of the F-35s has not been cancelled yet (indeed, the F-35B STOVL – Short Take Off Vertical Landing variant of the plane, expected to take part to the two leading European airshows, had resumed flights on Jun. 28) but the fleet-wide grounding puts the aircraft’s international debut at risk.
Here’s the official statement from Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby on F-35 Fleet Grounding:
The technical air worthiness authorities of the Department of the Air Force and Department of the Navy have issued a directive to ground the F-35 fleet based on initial findings from the runway fire incident that occurred at Eglin Air Force Base on Monday, June 23. 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. 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.
This is not the first time the entire F-35 fleet is grounded.