Friday, January 29, 2016

F-35 cleared for overseas air shows

Mark Buongiorno, vice president of Pratt’s F135 engine program, said company officials are pleased the F-35 will go to air shows in the United Kingdom.

EAST HARTFORD — Pratt & Whitney’s F135 engines, and the Pentagon’s newest F-35 Lightning II military jets that they power, finally will make their international debut this summer at a pair of air shows in England.

The U.S. Air Force has cleared the jet fighters to travel to two United Kingdom shows this year: the Royal International Air Tattoo, from July 7-9, and the Farnborough International Air Show set for July 11-17.

The F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, had been expected to debut at Farnborough in 2014, but missed the show after an explosion and fire in a malfunctioning Pratt engine in a test aircraft. It also missed the 2015 Paris Air Show.

Pratt’s F135 engines power the aircraft, and Pratt officials say they’re eager to show off the new plane’s capabilities for an international audience.

Pratt “is excited that visitors to these two air shows will get to experience the F-35, and its F135 engine, as it powers through its aerial demonstration,” Mark Buongiorno, vice president of Pratt’s F135 engine program said in an email.

The F135, which is capable of generating 40,000 pounds of thrust, is “the most powerful and adaptable fighter engine ever built,” Buongiorno said.

Britain’s Rolls-Royce makes the portion of the propulsion system used in the short-take-off and vertical landing version of the plane, designed primarily for the U.S. Marine Corps. Other versions of the jet fighter are being made for the Air Force, the Navy, international partners, and other foreign customers.

Nine countries are partners in the F-35 program: Great Britain, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Norway.

The delays have sparked concern among the international partners about committing to purchasing the planes. The demonstrations likely won’t affect that, aerospace analyst Mark Bobbi, who owns MB Strategy Consulting in Florida, said.

“No mechanical issues remain,” Bobbi said, but a snag in software development “has reared its ugly head.”

The Pentagon’s director of operational test and evaluation said there are “hundreds of unresolved deficiencies” in the software in a Dec. 11 memorandum, Breaking Defense, an online military industry magazine, reported.

But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III said the overseas demonstrations will show off the F-35 “cutting edge” planes.

“The F-35 represents a new way of thinking about data integration, weapons, and tactics,” Welsh said in a news release.

The planes will be part of the Air Force Heritage Flight program during the shows, which features modern planes flying side-by-side with World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War-era.

“The F-35 will be the backbone of the Air Force fighter fleet and represents the future for the U.S., our partners, and allies,” Brig. Gen. Scott Pleus, commander of the 56th Fighter Wing, said.

The 56th Fighter Wing, from Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, also will have F-35s on static public display at both air shows.

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