United States military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

United States military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

The U.S. military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35s in the wake of one of the planes crashing in SC two weeks ago.

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.

According to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, the USA and its worldwide partners - including Britain and Israel - have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations for a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft. "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 aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available".

The F-35 program office said the inspections should be completed in one or two days.

The F-35 stealth jet has been called the most expensive weapons system in history, and its development was beset by multiple delays before it was deemed combat ready.

The Italian Air Force has already completed its inspections and, as it did not find the faulty part, is back to normal flight operations, according to two sources.

The Joint Program Office statement included "international partners" in the flight operation grounding, though the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence tweeted they have only "paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry".

The F-35 fighter jet conducted a combat airstrike for the first time last month
The F-35 fighter jet conducted a combat airstrike for the first time last month

It will equip the US Air Force and Marine Corps as well as several of Washington's allies.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", he said.

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents". It promises to be the centrepiece of USA air power for decades to come.

The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact worldwide partners, such as Israel, that have the F-35. There are 75 F-35s in the global fleet.

Because the problem is related to a fleetwide engine issue, rather than just in the F-35B models, it appears unlikely that the problem is unrelated to the short-takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the Marine's design.

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