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F-35 debut hopes revived with ‘limited’ flights

An F-35A Lightning II from the 33rd Fighter Wing streaks across the sky above Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. while coming in for landing after a training sortie.
Source: U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III | Airman Magazine
An F-35A Lightning II from the 33rd Fighter Wing streaks across the sky above Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. while coming in for landing after a training sortie.

The U.S. military granted Lockheed Martin's F-35 the right to fly on Tuesday, raising the odds that the fighter jet could still debut at this week's Farnborough International Airshow.

Officials have allowed the jet "limited" flying capabilities, the details of which have not been disclosed. It was grounded back in June when part of the engine of a U.S. Air Force F-35 A-model broke apart and ripped through the top of a jet as it prepared for take-off.

On Tuesday, outgoing U.K. defence secretary Philip Hammond said he was hopeful the jet would still appear at Farnborough.

"The aircraft has now been given a limited release to fly, but there are certain restrictions around that, as we still seek to understand precisely the nature of the problem that caused the engine fire," Hammond told reporters at the U.K.'s biennial air and defence show.

"We just don't know yet whether the aircraft will be able to make trans-Atlantic transit. We very much hope that we might see it by the end of the week, but safety must be the paramount consideration and if there are any doubts then it will stay on the other side of the Atlantic."

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The F-35 was supposed to make its global debut at the U.K.'s Royal International Air Tattoo last week, to be followed by Farnborough on Monday. Its absence was a big blow for the U.S. and U.K. military, who were hoping to show off the new jet.

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson told CNBC earlier this week that she was looking forward to the "unique opportunity" to showcase the jet, despite the setback.

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