​F-35 Fighter Had To Land In Texas En Route To Nellis Air Force Base​​

By: | 03/13/2013 08:37 AM ET

The pilot of an F-35 fighter had to land in Lubbock, Texas after an alarm sounded from his cockpit. The stealth jet was flying from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas to Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas.

It was also reported that a caution warning light came on, requiring the pilot to land at the nearest airport, said Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein.

He said the pilot landed safely and a team of Lockheed maintenance experts was en route to examine the single-engine plane at the Lubbock airport, which is about 300 miles from Fort Worth, Rein said. It was not yet clear what caused the caution light to come on, he said.

The incident is the latest in a string of negative news about the new single-seat, single-engine warplane that Lockheed is developing for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and eight international partners: Britain, Canada, Australia, Italy, Turkey, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program, has been grounded twice this year already for engine-related issues.

Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon’s $396 billion F-35 program, confirmed the plane had landed in Lubbock after a warning light came on, but said he had no further details about the incident.

Rein said it was not immediately known if the warning light was triggered by a problem with the engine, which is built by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

He said local police were securing the state-of-the-art warplane at Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, which handles operations by three airlines and several cargo carriers.

Rein said the plane would continue its journey to Nellis Air Force Base, or return to the Lockheed plant, depending on what the mechanics discovered when they examined the plane.

Gary Loftus, airport operations manager at the Lubbock airport, said the F-35 fighter was parked on an airport ramp and was protected within a fence.

“Nobody can get to the airplane,” he said.

He said he believed it was the first time an F-35 fighter had landed at the commercial airport.