Pratt & Whitney has halted tests on the Lockheed Martin F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) engine variant for at least one month after detecting an erosion problem. Unexpected wear and tear appeared on a second stage low-pressure turbine vane in the F135 STOVL powerplant after less than two months of performance checks on a test stand in West Palm Beach, Florida, P&W says. The Joint Strike Fighter engine entered testing in mid-April, and the anomaly was detected in early June. Testing may resume in July, but engineers are still searching for potential causes of the erosion in the low-pressure turbine section, which drives the STOVL variant's unique lift fan. P&W says the engine tests were running ahead of the original schedule, so a possible four-week delay now should not affect the overall development schedule. First flight for the F-35B is scheduled for mid-2007 under a revised schedule presented to the Defense Acquisition Board on 17 June (Flight International, 8-15 June).

Source: Flight International