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The U.S. Air Force has lifted a two-week-old flight ban that had grounded the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, following a power problem on a plane at Edwards Air Force Base in California. While the probe continues, engineers determined that it is safe to resume test flights, said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office.
Flight operations will resume for the rest of the planes, which are based at Edwards and at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.However, two F-35s based at Eglin in Florida will remain grounded because they lack the monitoring systems used in developmental test aircraft that can detect any problems in flight.
The F-35 is the Pentagon’s biggest procurement program at a planned $382 billion to buy 2,457 of the stealth F-35 jets in different versions for the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. The F-35 may be a target for budget cuts as the Pentagon is pressed to help lower the federal deficit. The Defense Department will need to find at least $325 billion in cuts over the next 10 years in the first phase of a $2.4 trillion deficit- reduction agreement approved by Congress. Another round of $500 billion in defense cuts may be imposed if Congress fails to approve enough budget savings in other areas.
The Air Force has also grounded Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor, the military’s most advanced fighter, because of reported problems with the plane’s system for supplying oxygen to the pilot. The flight ban on the F-22, in effect since May, remains until an investigation is completed in a few months, said Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Haynes.