A senior US official warned Monday of potentially serious damage to military jets from volcanic ash after a buildup of glass was found in the engine of a NATO fighter plane in Europe.

“This is a very, very serious matter that in the not too distant future will start having real impact on military capabilities,” the official told reporters.

“Allied F-16s were flying and they did find glass buildup inside the engines,” he told reporters in Brussels, adding that the ash had affected one aircraft.

Ash from volcanos can be turned into a glass form at high temperatures when it passes through a jet engine.

Airspace across much of Europe has been closed since Thursday due to an ash cloud sparked by an eruption at Iceland’s Eyjafjoell volcano.

“I think the airspace is closed for a reason,” the US official said.

Military sources refused to disclose the extent of the problem.

Nearly seven million passengers have been affected by the airspace closures, which governments say are essential for safety reasons, while airlines want the restrictions reassessed as business suffers.

Air France, British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa have reported no problems after launching flights to test fears that the ash cloud would destroy jet engines.

The US official said that some military exercises in the United States had already been scaled down while the real impact of the volcanic ash on equipment is studied.

He also said that the problem highlighted the urgent need to finalise a transit agreement with Russia on the over-flight of lethal materials and troops into Afghanistan, where NATO is battling to defeat a Taliban-led insurgency.

Source: France24

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