Lockheed Martin has expressed disappointment that its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will not fly at this year's Farnborough air show, but has downplayed the impact of the decision on the international perception of the programme.
“We are disappointed that we are not going to be here,” Lockheed spokesperson Mike Rein says. “But we agree with the ultimate decision.”
“It would be better to get the airplane back to full flight before making a Farnborough appearance,” he says.
US Marine Corps officials and members of Lockheed’s Fort Worth, Texas-based F-35 team have been in the UK for weeks preparing for the F-35B to make its international debut at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) followed by Farnborough. Two US aircraft and one UK aircraft were to make an appearance.
The company spent months preparing for the shows, which would have given foreign partners the opportunity to see the aircraft flying outside the USA.
Rein concedes there “is always the possibility” that the aircraft’s failure to attend could impact the fighter’s reputation, but adds that customers understand that the F-35, once operational, will have unmatched capabilities. “They get it,” he says.
As for the general public, Rein says, “We hope they understand that this is a development programme. Have no doubt, the F-35 will fly in the UK one day,” Rein adds.
The F-35 fleet had been grounded since late June when a fire erupted on an A-variant at Eglin AFB in Florida. The US Department of Defense only lifted the order on 15 July, but with a number of flight restrictions still in place. These include a requirement that the front fans of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engines be inspected after every three flight hours.