Pentagon Grounds F-35 Fleet

The Pentagon on Friday grounded its fleet of F-35 fighter jets after discovering a cracked engine blade in one plane. (AP/Northrop Grumman)

The Pentagon on Friday grounded its fleet of F-35 fighter jets after discovering a cracked engine blade in one plane. (AP/Northrop Grumman)

By Kirk Carapezza

The entire F-35 fighter jet fleet has been grounded after a crack was found on an engine blade.

The Defense Department announced late Friday afternoon that inspectors discovered the crack during a routine inspection of a jet at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It said the grounding is precautionary while F-35s are being tested.

“The F-35 Joint Program Office is working closely with Pratt & Whitney and Lockheed Martin at all F-35 locations to ensure the integrity of the engine, and to return the fleet safely to flight as soon as possible,” the Defense Department said in a press release.

The Vermont Air Guard hopes to be chosen to base the F-35 – the world’s most expensive weapon system at nearly $400 billion – once the F-16 fighter jets are phased out in 2020.

Recently elected Adjutant General Steven Cray has repeatedly said basing the F-35 in Vermont is critically important to the future of the Guard, which doesn’t have a menu of other missions from which to choose.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, as Commander in Chief of the Vermont National Guard, is worried the military unit would be “crippled” if the Air Force does not decide to base the jets in South Burlington.

“Supporting the F-35 is no different than supporting any major development of technology in the military over the last 200 years that have helped us protect this country,” Shumlin said. “It’s great for jobs, but it’s more important to keep state-of-the-art equipment for Vermont’s national guard, which I believe is the best national guard in the country.”

Without the F-35, Shumlin has stressed, Vermont would lose its status as a leader in the National Guard.