Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Global fleet of F-35 fighter jets grounded after US crash

Global fleet of F-35 fighter jets grounded after US crash

The US military has temporarily grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a crash in SC last month.

"The US Services and worldwide partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft", according to a statement issued by the Department of Defense.

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in United States history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

The crash in SC involved an F-35B, which is able to land vertically and costs around $100m (£75m).

The news was reported by multiple outlets, including Task & Purpose and The Marine Corps Times, and comes after a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II was destroyed in a crash September 28 on Little Barnwell Island, just a few miles from the air station. If the faulty part is found, it will be removed and replaced.

The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status".

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Britain, however, said the measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been "paused", not grounded.

All three services have stopped flying the F-35 while fuel tubes in the aircraft are inspected and replaced if necessary. Luckily, the pilot of the crashed aircraft ejected and landed safely.

"F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are continuing and the programme remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability". The Marine version of the jet is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, and one flew its first combat mission last month in Afghanistan.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", the Pentagon statement added. "We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35 for the warfighter and our defense partners".

According to data for fiscal year 2017, the most recent available, the Air Force's F-35A models had around a 55 percent readiness rate, well below that target. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion. But the problem has already been identified as faulty fuel tubes.

Other nations that have signed contracts to join the F-35 program include the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway, according to the Pentagon.

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