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article imageNewest U.S. military plane gets OK to return to skies

By Nathan Salant     Jul 17, 2014 in Technology
Washington, D. C. - US military officials were pleased Monday to announce that the most expensive weapon ever built, the new F-35 war plane, has been cleared to fly again, although with limitations.
Air Force and Navy officials said Monday that the F-35, which cost more than $400 billion to develop, will be back in the air with stepped-up engine inspections and restricted flight schedules.
The advanced fighter-bomber was grounded last month after a still-unexplained engine fire on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso in the Florida Panhandle.
US Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright told Cable News Network (CNN) that restrictions on the F-35 would "remain in effect until the root cause of the June 23 engine mishap is identified and corrected."
But Wright said it was not clear whether the Joint Srike Fighter was cleared in time to make a much-anticipated appearance at the prestigious Farnborough International Airshow that began this week and runs through July 20 in Farnborough, England.
More than $42 billion worth of orders and commitments for commercial aircraft and engines were made on the show's first day, CNN said.
More than 2,400 F-35s have been ordered by the US Air Force, Army and Marines, and hundreds more are expected to be sold to allied nations when the plane is in full production.
There are around 100 planes already built and being tested in the United States.
The jets are so far anticipated to cost $135 million each, but that price could rise if additional problems develop as testing continues.
"We remain hopeful that the F-35 can make an appearance at the Farnborough airshow," Wright said.
"This information is an encouraging step, but no final decision has been made at this time," he said, adding that "safety remains the overriding priority."
The Eglin fire forced investigators from the Air Force and engine maker Pratt & Whitney to inspect the entire fleet of planes, which are being manufactured by longtime defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
"We have great confidence in the F135 engine powering the F-35, and we have worked very closely with DoD and the Services to return the aircraft to flying status," Matthew Bates of Pratt & Whitney Military Engines said Tuesday.
"It would be great for the jets to come to the Farnborough Air Show so the audience here can see the capabilities the F-35 brings to the US and our partners," Bates said.
The Farnborough airshow began Monday, and runs through July 20 in Farnborough, England.
More than $40 billion in orders and commitments for commercial aircraft and engines were placed on opening day, CNN said.
"It is important for the international community to see that this isn't a paper airplane," Air Force Lt. Gen. Peter Bogdan told the Wall Street Journal newspaper last week.
The F-35 is expected to have radar-masking capabilities and some versions are expected to be capable of vertical landings and short-runway takeoffs.
Close US-aligned nations such as South Korea, Japan and Australia participated in developing the plane and are expected to be among the first purchasers when it is available.
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