2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

F-35 flight restrictions hamstring newest fighter

Published: July 16, 2014, 10:04 am, by Tom Roeder

Standing ready for flightThe Air Force’s vaunted 5th Generation fighter has a lot in common with the jets sent in the early 1950s to fight the Korean war thanks to speed restrictions put in place after an engine fire grounded the stealthy jets.
The single-engine F-35 is planned to replace aircraft now used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, including the A-10, F-16 and AV-8. But more than a decade of development has yet to work the bugs out of the fighter.
The June 23 engine fire on an F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., led to a grounding of the fleet, engine inspections and new flight rules that leave the newest fighter with lower performance than the oldest fighters in service.
“Under the rules of the flight resumption, the F-35s are limited to a maximum speed of Mach 0.9 and 18 degrees of angle of attack. They can go from minus 1 G to a 3 G’s,” a Pentagon spokesman said in a news release. “After three hours of flight time, each front fan section of each engine has to be inspected with a borescope.”
The aging F-16, introduced in the 1970s, can pull more than 9 times the force of gravity and approach Mach 2.
It remains unclear of when the F-35 will be allowed to show its full performance, which includes a top speed of 1.6 and the ability to pull 9 times the force of gravity in turns.