Grounded F-35As may not fly for months

By Courtney Albon / September 20, 2016 at 10:55 AM

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- The head of Air Combat Command told reporters that the 13 F-35As grounded due to "peeling and crumbling" insulation discovered inside avionics cooling lines in some A-model fuel tanks may be grounded for "a few months."

The issue affects 57 aircraft -- 15 in the field and 42 in production. Two of the fielded jets affected by the issue belong to Norway and are also grounded.

Gen. Herbert Carlisle told reporters during a Sept. 20 media roundtable at the annual Air Force Association conference here that the issue is not a design or developmental problem but is linked to faulty cooling lines a subcontractor delivered, and it appears to be isolated to only one production lot.

"The contractor did not meet the standards it was supposed to meet," he said, noting that it was a "quality control" issue.

Carlisle said the command is working now to understand the impact the grounding will have on flight operations, and said Hill Air Force Base, UT, which houses the first operational F-35 unit, will feel the biggest impact.

The service is currently working to develop a fix for the problem, and Carlisle said a solution has not yet been identified. He said the faulty lines have not led to any problems on the affected jets, noting that the issue was discovered during depot modifications, not flight operations.

"I'm hoping in a few months we can get them all back online," he said.