There'll Be Fewer F-35 Stealth Jets In Air Shows Due To Engine Shortage

Engines are running too hot and causing cracking on turbine blades.
Fabienne Lang

The U.S. Air Force's F-35 jet fighter will participate in fewer demo shows around the world this year due to an engine shortage issue. 

Bloomberg News was the first to report the news of the growing shortage of F135 engines, used in F-35 jets, and manufactured by Pratt & Whitney, which is now owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp.

The main issue is caused by the longer repair times of the F135 engine. 

What is being done about the issue:

In response to the engine issue, the Air Combat Command (ACC), who oversees fighter aircraft units, lowered the number of 2021 air shows F-35s will take part in, so as to have enough of the jets for deployment and training. As per Bloomberg, the ACC has cut eight performances. 

The main issue is that the F-35 jets' engines have been running to the limits of their designs, and getting too hot. The heat led to premature cracks of turbine blade coatings, which has meant more engines have been removed or repaired sooner than typically required — adding more delays in the already-backlogged depot system. 

These coating cracks don't pose any flight issues, a defense official told Bloomberg, but they do minimize an engine's useful life.

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So what will happen in due course? In the most extreme case, up to 20 percent of F35s will be missing engines by 2025, explained the Pentagon's F-35 program office. 

The U.S. Air Force is working hard alongside the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Program Office and Pratt & Whitney to fix the supply and maintenance issue with the F135 engine. Minimizing the jet's air shows will help in providing as many engines are possible for operational requirements. 

This particular engine issue will be discussed at an "F-35 Commanders" conference on February 17, at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Pratt & Whitney officials along with U.S. Air Force generals will attend the conference to see what can be done.

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