Has US Air Force's decision to keep its F-15A-Ds grounded even if they pass checks for fatigue cracks that could cause structural failure backfired? Air Force Times is reporting the Pentagon has directed the USAF to take funds it hoped to use to keep the F-22 production line open and spend them instead on repairing its air-defence F-15s. Where this leaves the F-22 is not clear.
The money, almost $500 million, was budgeted to shut down the F-22 line after just 183 aircraft, but Air Force Times says the Pentagon had agreed the money could be used to buy long-lead items for another 20 aircraft. Now it is to be spent on the very Eagles the Raptor was intended to replace. But, while the USAF has only found longeron cracks in nine of its 442 F-15A-Ds, the attention generated by its extended grounding of the Eagles will ensure Congress weighs in on the issue when it marks up the FY2009 budget.
The Air Force, meanwhile, believes it has isolated the cause of the cracks that caused an F-15C to break apart in flight on 3 November, says macon.com. The fuselage longerons were designed to outlast the aircraft, but investigators have isolated a weakness in a splice joint. Replacement longerons have been ordered, but even if the grounding is lifted in January the USAF says it could take another six months for the idled Eagle pilots to get back up to speed.