U.S. military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

Charlene Craig
October 12, 2018

The entire global fleet of F-35s - including Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy variants - will stay on the ground while inspectors look at the airplanes' engines. The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat jet, but the aircraft was completely destroyed.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II's assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018. The engines of the aircraft will be checked for suspected faulty tubes and replacements made where necessary.

During the crash investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours", Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said in a statement to Fox News.

A day before the crash in SC, another Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II was used in its first USA combat mission to strike a Taliban target in Afghanistan.

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The grounding is in response to data from the ongoing investigation of the Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II that crashed near Beaufort, S.C. on September 28, according to a statement by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

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 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 Israeli warplanes, purchased from the US, are a different model than the American one that crashed. There are more than 340 F-35s being used now by the United States and other countries.

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"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", DellaVedova said. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes would be returned to operational status. The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

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

All U.S. and worldwide F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin Co have been grounded so that fuel tubes can be examined, a Pentagon spokesperson said on Thursday.

A spokesman for the F-35s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said Thursday morning that industry partners were working with the F-35's Joint Program Office to investigate the problems. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion.

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