Pentagon grounds F-35B after fuel leak

Published: Monday, January 21, 2013 at 10:48 AM.

Blot described the grounding as precautionary.

“NAVAIR is responsible for technical help for all of these aircraft and when they get an incident, they look at it and say ‘stop flying the airplane until I get a chance to see what happened,’” he said. “It could be a one-of-a-kind incident and you go on. It could mean this has to be fixed. Some evaluations take less than a day. Others take much longer.”

Blot estimated there are about 20 F-35B jets built, including those at Eglin, three at Yuma, Ariz., and four or five at Patuxent River, Md.

Production of the aircraft in a contract with Lockheed is more than 70 percent over original budget, now at about $395.7 billion.

Cherry Point is last on the list to receive F-35B squadrons, with the original eight squadrons planned for the base reduced to seven. The first squadrons are not expected to arrive until 2021 or 2022.

The Fleet Readiness Center East maintenance and repair facility has been tapped to work on the planes. If development and procurement stays on track, one could arrive there for modification as early as next year. 

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