The F-35 program office on Wednesday suspended all F-35 ground and flight operations, as a precautionary measure, after an incident Tuesday with AF-4, an F-35A test aircraft, at Edwards AFB, Calif. AF-4’s integrated power package, which provides power to start the engine and helps cool the aircraft, experienced a failure during a standard ground maintenance engine run, said F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova. Testers immediately shut down the engine and secured the aircraft, he said. There were no injuries to the pilot or ground crew, he noted. The standdown affects all 20 F-35s currently in flying status, said DellaVedova. This includes F-35 test aircraft and initial production units. “Determinations of root cause and potential mitigating actions have the highest priority of the F-35 team,” said DellaVedova. “Once the facts are understood, a determination will be made when to lift the suspension.” AF-4 is the same aircraft that experienced an in-flight anomaly at Edwards in early March that led to a temporary fleet-wide suspension of F-35 flight activities. This news comes as the F-22, the nation’s other fifth generation fighter, nears the third month of a fleet-wide standdown due to concerns over its onboard oxygen-generation system.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.