Two of the biggest lithium-ion batteries on the F-35 warplane are made by the French company Saft Groupe SA, which also makes batteries for Airbus, part of European aerospace group EADS NV. Saft last month expressed confidence that lithium-ion technology was safe.
But people familiar with the matter have said that Airbus officials are reconsidering use of the batteries on the A350, which would be the second large passenger jet to fly on lithium-ion batteries for backup electrical power after the Dreamliner, which pioneered their use in passenger transport to support an increasing array of electrical systems.
Airbus said last week it had a plan B for its battery and time to respond to any rule changes.
DellaVedova said military officials remained confident in the lithium-ion batteries used on the F-35, and there were no discussions under way to swap them out for heavier nickel-cadmium batteries.
Lockheed Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson last month underscored her confidence in the lithium-ion batteries, telling reporters that the batteries on the F-35 were made by a different company and had been tested extensively.
Lockheed spokesman Mike Rein said more than a dozen F-35 jets were wired with extensive monitoring equipment to carry out development testing and no flight safety issues had been detected with the batteries during over 6,000 hours of flight testing on the airplanes.
“We are monitoring our full battery system on a daily basis as we flight test. We have continual data updates, and we’ve had no indication that we are connected to the same issues that grounded the 787,” Rein said.
The F-35’s battery system has run into a different problem on the ground, with some airplanes failing to start during cold temperatures under 10 degrees Celsius, DellaVedova said.
He cited “minor irregularities” that had been traced back to a software issue in the jet’s battery charger control unit, and a fix was in the works for new jets in production and would be retrofitted on earlier jets. The problem, he said, was not related to the batteries themselves.
In the meantime, he said, measures were being taken to warm the area near the battery on cold days prior to start.