The Pentagon says a slowdown in the supply of F-35 fighter jet engines could end the Air Force’s F-35As score by 2025. The F135 engine undergoes long repairs, and high temperatures are causing cracks in the turbine blades.
These issues have forced the Air Force to reduce the attendance of the service’s F-35 air show team. The US Air Force’s F-35 fighter fleet faces another problem: a lack of engines.
Five years after the F-35 was declared ready for battle, the Air Force is discovering that the aircraft’s Pratt & Whitney F135 engine takes longer to maintain than previously thought. The heat problem is also causing cracks in the F135’s fan blade coatings. If left unchecked, the problem could drop to 20 percent of the Air Force’s F-35s by 2025.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a single-engine jet fighter designed for both air-to-air and air-to-ground. The F-35’s engine produces the F135 after-burning turbofan, with 28,000 pounds of thrust, or an after-burner with 43,000 pounds of thrust. The F135 powers the entire F-35 fleet, including the Marine Corps’ short vertical takeoff and landing-B model, allowing the aircraft to take off vertically when needed.
An F135 engine is undergoing testing. The F135 Heavy Maintenance Center at Tinker Air Force Base is not processing the engines and is delivering them to the jet fleet as fast as possible, according to a Bloomberg report. The problem is exacerbated when the engines are operated at temperatures higher than originally planned, leading to cracks in the turbine blade coatings of many engines. Caregivers are replacing these blades as soon as they are discovered.