UPDATE 1-F-35 engine failure likely not systemic -Pentagon official

Thu Jul 10, 2014 4:08pm EDT
 
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(Recasts with comments from Pentagon top weapons buyer, RIAT statement)

By Andrea Shalal

RAF FAIRFORD, England, July 10 (Reuters) - The Pentagon's chief weapons buyer told lawmakers there was "growing evidence" that an engine fire on an Air Force F-35A jet last month was not a systemic issue, which sources familiar with the situation said could pave the way for officials to lift an order grounding the fleet of warplanes.

The Pratt & Whitney engine on one of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s Joint Strike Fighters broke apart and caught fire while preparing to take off from a Florida air base on June. 23.

Defense Undersecretary Frank Kendall said on Thursday that all existing engines had been inspected and that no issues similar to the one that caused the engine failure were found, but an examination of the affected engine was continuing.

"We really want to get at the root cause of this to determine exactly what caused it," Kendall told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

"There's a growing body of evidence that this may have been an individual situation, not a systemic one. But we don't know that for certain at this point in time," he added.

Two sources familiar with the situation said U.S. and foreign officials could agree to resume flights of the F-35 jets soon but would probably require regular inspections of the engine part involved in the June fire.

Lifting the grounding order now would allow a small number of F-35s to travel across the Atlantic to appear in one of two air shows this month, possibly as early as Saturday, the sources said.   Continued...