05:16 GMT +328 September 2016
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An F-35 Lightning II performs a test flight near Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

As F-35 Arrives in Japan, US Air Force 'Crown Jewel' Bursts Into Flames at Home

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On Friday, Japan received its first F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Given that one of the Pentagon’s own models caught fire on the very same day, can Tokyo expect similar setbacks?

Japan’s Air Self Defense Forces (JASDF) received the JSF as part of an elaborate celebration attended by over 400 guests.

F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
© REUTERS/ US Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Remington Hall/Handout

"The F-35A has remarkably advanced system. This highly sophisticated 5th generation fighter will bring a great development to air operations as a game changer," said Gen. Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, JASDF Chief of Air Staff, according to a press release from the aircraft’s developer, Lockheed Martin.

At the same time that the F-35 made its Japanese debut, however, a US Air Force model caught fire, roughly 5,000 miles away.

The incident occurred at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho, with the fire breaking out in "the aft section of the aircraft," according to a statement from the US Air Force (USAF). No injuries were reported, but an investigation was launched to discover the cause of the malfunction, believed to be related to the aircraft’s engine.

The Pentagon has long known about problems with the Pratt & Whitney engine. Last October, Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the F-35 Joint Program Office, made assurances that the problems were fixed.

"We are producing fully capable engines on the production line," Bogdan said, according to the CT Mirror, adding that the engine problem "was unfortunate, but we are putting it behind us."

The $1.12 trillion dollar aircraft – the most expensive weapon ever built – has been riddled with problems throughout its development. Last week, Bogdan pointed out that as many as 42 F-35s still on the production line will need to have their fuel tank insulation replaced. This includes models meant for Norway, Italy, Israel, and Japan.

These ongoing issues were not highlighted during Friday’s JASDF roll-out ceremony.

Speaking to Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear, F-16 designer Pierre Sprey pointed out that the F-35’s "sophistication" may be overstated, particularly with regard to its stealth capabilities.

"Every Battle of Britain radar would be able to see every stealth airplane today, loud and clear. That’s the irony. Stealth is supposed to be the latest hook that obsoletes everything that came before it, but WWII radar sees it perfectly," he said.

"So the question is, Should the F-35 be canceled? Of course, it should have been canceled yesterday. Will it be canceled? No. Not until it becomes such a public disgrace because of crashes and failures in combat that the services will have to walk away in embarrassment."

Given the fire at Mountain Home Air Force Base, the question remains; can the Japanese government expect similar issues with its F-35s? Speaking to Sputnik, Mike Rein, a spokesman Lockheed Martin’s F-35 division, "the answer is simple – NO!"

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Tags:
F-35 Lighting II, Japan's Air Self Defense Force, US Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Pierre Sprey, Christopher Bogdan, Yoshiyuki Sugiyama, Japan, United States
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