Pentagon F-35 chief says grounding will not delay delivery

MELBOURNE Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:02pm EST

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MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The grounding of Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35 fighter fleet last week due to a crack found in the engine of one test aircraft would not delay major milestones or delivery of the aircraft, the Pentagon's F-35 program chief said on Monday.

All flights by the 51 F-35 fighter planes were suspended on Friday after a routine inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade in the jet engine of a test aircraft in California.

U.S. Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan told reporters in Melbourne that the kind of problem identified on Friday was unfortunate but normal and expected during development and testing of a new aircraft, and further problems were likely as testing progressed.

Bogdan and other high ranking F-35 executives are in Australia to promote progress on the $396 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, the Pentagon's biggest weapons program.

Bogdan said there was no sign that any of the countries signed up to purchase the next generation fighter were reconsidering their involvement beyond previously announced delays and reductions in orders.

(Reporting by Jane Wardell; Editing by Michael Perry)

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