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Pentagon Halts F-35 Deliveries Pending Results of Texas Fighter Crash Investigation

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) launches from amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7), Aug. 24, 2022. US Navy Photo

The story has been updated to include a statement from Pratt & Whitney and an updated statement from the F-35 Joint Program Office.

The Pentagon has stopped taking deliveries of the F135 engine for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters following an F-35B mishap last month in Texas.

The halt to deliveries started last week and comes as Naval Air Systems Command investigates the mishap, in which an F-35B crashed on the runaway in Forth Worth, Texas, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base.

“Currently, acceptance of new engines has been suspended. That pause began Tuesday, Dec. 27. The length of the pause is currently to be determined, and it is hard to say how long it will last given the current investigation of what specifically would allow deliveries to resume. The root cause analysis and accident investigation need to be completed first,” the F-35 Joint Program Office said in a statement.

In a statement, Pratt & Whitney, which builds the F135 engine, said it’s coordinating with the JPO on deliveries and the probe into the mishap.

“There has been no formal suspension of F135 deliveries and we are working closely with the Joint Program Office on all aspects of the on-going investigation and timing of deliveries. The F135 has more than 600,000 flight hours. Safety for the warfighter is and will continue to be our number one priority,” said Jen Latka, the company’s vice president for F135 engines.

In an updated statement, the JPO said it reached an understanding with Pratt & Whitney to postpone the deliveries.

”The F-35 Joint Program Office and Pratt & Whitney have agreed to delay scheduled delivery and acceptance [DD250] of F135 engines until further information from the investigation is known and safety of flight can be ensured,” the JPO said in the updated statement.

Last week, Lockheed Martin reached a $30 billion deal with the Pentagon for as many as 398 F-35 jets. The deal is for Lots 15 and 16, with the potential for Lot 17.

“The agreement includes 145 aircraft for Lot 15, 127 for Lot 16, and up to 126 for the Lot 17 contract option, including the first F-35 aircraft for BelgiumFinland and Poland,” Lockheed said in a Dec. 30 news release.

In the company release, Lockheed noted it had to halt flight operations and therefore did not deliver the 148 jets it was under contract to deliver to the Defense Department this year.

“The F-35 team was on track to meet the commitment of 148 aircraft as planned; however, due to a temporary pause in flight operations, which is still in effect, necessary acceptance flight tests could not be performed,” Lockheed said in the release.

The halt to flight operations followed the Dec. 15 F-35B incident, in which the short take-off and vertical landing aircraft crashed on the runway. The pilot safely ejected. That F-35 had not yet been transferred to the government, USNI News previously reported.

Meanwhile, in December, the nose of a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B hit the ground as it was getting towed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, Marine Corps Times reported.