Jul 31, 2014
Some F-35 Flight Restrictions Lifted
Speed restrictions for the 20 F-35s that make up the test aircraft fleet were relaxed late last week from Mach 0.9 to Mach 1.6, while maneuverability restrictions were increased slightly from 3 Gs to 3.2.
Other restrictions remain, however, including borescope inspections of the front fan section of each F135 engine every three hours. The 79 remaining F-35s are still under the full restrictions.
The restrictions are the result of a June 23 fire that severely damaged an F-35A model and led to the Pentagon grounding the fleet for a time while the cause of the problem was discovered. On July 15, the Pentagon allowed the plane to begin flying again within limited parameters.
Those restrictions are limiting the ability of the services to fully test and evaluate the planes, meaning that if the restrictions remain for a significant period, it could affect the planned initial operating capability (IOC) dates for the jet.
The Marine Corps’ aircraft will be the first to reach IOC — in July 2015 — followed by the Air Force in August 2016.