UPDATE 1-Plans for F-35 UK debut still on despite flight suspensions

Wed Jun 25, 2014 7:03pm EDT
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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - Flights of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter jets remained suspended on Wednesday as Air Force officials investigated a fire that damaged one of the jets on Monday, but the Marine Corps said it still plans to send jets to Britain for two air shows next month.

Captain Richard Ulsh said flights of the Marine Corp's F-35 B-model that can land vertically had been suspended at bases in Florida, Arizona and Maryland, pending the investigation.

"We will resume flying once we know more about the cause of the F-35A fire that occurred at Eglin AFB earlier this week," Ulsh said. "At present, there are no changes to our plans to debut the aircraft in the UK."

The Air Force had planned to resume flights of the A-model jets at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida on Wednesday, but announced earlier that it would continue the flight ban "in the interest of safety," said 1st Lieutenant Hope Cronin, a spokeswoman for the Air Force 33rd Fighter Wing.

Cronin had no further details on the nature or extent of the damage to the F-35A that had to abort a takeoff on Monday morning after a "significant fire" broke out in the rear of the plane.

On Tuesday, Cronin said the Marine Corps' F-35 B-model jets and the Navy's C-model jets built for use on aircraft carriers, also did not fly on Monday or Tuesday due to storms.

Navy commanders have also suspended flights at other bases, and Air Force officials are poised to follow suit, according to a defense official familiar with the situation.   Continued...