The entire fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighters will reportedly be grounded in order to facilitate a thorough engine inspection.
The order comes after the June 23 fire in an F-35A at Eglin AFB in Florida in which the pilot was forced to abandon his takeoff and the aircraft was extensively damaged. The pilot escaped without injury, and the aircraft has been sequestered pending an investigation.
US media reports indicate the fire was likely engine-related, and that a joint directive from US and UK military officials will require mandatory engine inspections of all F-35 aircraft before they can resume flying.
The grounding is the latest setback for the much-delayed program, and comes just as USMC and RAF officials were planning to deploy four F-35Bs to the UK for the Royal International Air Tattoo on July 11 and the 2014 Farnborough Airshow the following week. Those aircraft were due to depart on their non-stop nine hour ferry flight to the UK on July 1, but as of July 3 were still at Patuxent River in Maryland pending a release from UK authorities.
It had been reported the UK government had hoped at least one of the F-35Bs could perform a flypast of the July 4 naming ceremony of the new HMS Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier in Scotland, but that possibility now appears unlikely.
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