Scorpion Grabs Spotlight From Absent F-35

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The F-35 has been approved for flight but the Pentagon apparently doesn't want it flying over any oceans for now. The aircraft was due to make its international debut at the Farnborough Airshow this week but the trip has been officially cancelled. The aircraft was grounded after a June 23 engine fire that was traced to "excessive" fan blade rubbing inside the engine. The problem was apparently isolated to one aircraft but Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said they're not ready to risk a trip across the pond. The appearance fell under flight restrictions "that will remain in effect until the root cause of the June 23 engine mishap is identified and corrected," Kirby said. The absence of the elaborately expensive showstopper has vaulted the only other all-new military design debuting at Farnborough, Textron's Scorpion, to bask in some unexpected attention.

The $20 million light attack aircraft has been featured in all the major mainstream media outlets covering the big show. The media spotlight hasn't yet turned into any orders but Textron CEO Scott Donnelly told the Wichita Eagle that's to be expected. "There are lots of customer conversations going on," Textron CEO Scott Donnelly told the Eagle, adding that military procurements have to go through a long process of approval and budgeting in the home countries of the military agencies. The Scorpion is designed as a low-cost light attack and surveillance aircraft for low-risk environments and it went from clean sheet to first flight in 23 months. The fact that it made the trip to Farnborough while the F-35 stayed home was not lost on some of the commentators at the show. "OK, making comparisons is unfair," opined BBC reporter Russell Hotten. "The Scorpion and F-35 are light years apart in specification and functionality. But it is still slightly ironic."