F-35 Jets: Military grounds entire fleet

U.S. military suspends operations for F-35 fighter jets, citing safety concerns

The United States temporarily suspended operations for its fleet of F-35 fighter jets for 24 to 48 hours to check for possible faulty fuel tubes in the engines of the planes, after a crash in SC late last month raised concerns about whether the part was to blame.

The U.S. military on Thursday grounded its entire fleet of F-35 stealth fighters after one of the jets crashed during a training mission in SC last month, officials said Thursday.

Certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem. "If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status", the Defense Department said in a statement.

The inspections should be complete within 24 to 48 hours, Task & Purpose reported, citing a Pentagon official.

Christopher Harrison, a Marine Corps spokesperson at the Pentagon, told The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette that the investigation of the crash prompted the government's decision to temporarily suspend flight operations.

The wide-ranging grounding of the entire fleet comes after a Marine F-35B joint strike fighter went down in Beaufort, South Carolina, on September 28. Luckily, the pilot of the crashed aircraft ejected and landed safely.

The accident marked the first crash of an F-35 in the 17 years since Lockheed Martin won the competition for the fighter jet in October 2001 and teamed up with other contractors to begin production of the high-profile plane.

Mr DellaVedova said: "The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents".

While the F-35's U.S-based Joint Program Office had indicated that the grounding included aircraft purchased by foreign militaries, the British military signaled Monday that its entire fleet is not grounded. The Pentagon didn't make public how many planes are affected.

More than 320 F-35s around the world must now undergo the inspections, according to a source familiar with the program. There are 75 F-35s in the worldwide fleet. The Air Force has 156, the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28, according to data provided by the joint program office.

The issue as described by the JPO indicates the issue is believed to come from a subcontractor who supplied the fuel tubes for engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps plan to buy a total of 2,456 F-35s, at an estimated cost of $325 billion.

But the MOD said F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, were continuing and the programme remained on schedule to provide United Kingdom armed forces with "a game-changing capability".

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