F-35 jets: US military grounds entire fleet

F-35 fighter jet. Pic MoD

The U.S. military has grounded its fleet of F-35s following a recent crash in SC to inspect the fighter jets' engine fuel tubes, the Pentagon announced Thursday.

The world's most expensive fighter jet, the F-35, has been grounded around the world just weeks after its first successful combat sortie, as investigators try to figure out what caused a crash of the plane during a training mission last month.

Flight operations for the strike fighter have been temporarily suspended as the military conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engines of all F-35 aircraft, a Pentagon spokesman told Task & Purpose.

Mr DellaVedova added that if "known good" tubes are already in place, then those planes will be returned to operational status. "The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available".

While its costs per aircraft are coming down there are still questions about how many planes the U.S. can afford and whether it should also buy a cheaper, less capable aircraft alongside the F-35.

The F-35 is the costliest US weapons system. "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours".

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernise the F-35 for the warfighter and our defence partners". The U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy have hundreds of F-35s, both flying in the continental United States and deployed overseas, while the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Israel, Japan, and South Korea have smaller fleets. If the faulty part is found, it will be removed and replaced.

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All three services have stopped flying the F-35 while fuel tubes in the aircraft are inspected and replaced if necessary.

Military officials said the inspections ordered this week are to help prevent any future incidents. In response, all U.S. military F-35s will be inspected as well as F-35s operated by United States allies.

Now the US military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. John Pendleton, an official for the federal watchdog agency Government Accountability Office, said there hasn't been enough focus within the Air Force on sustaining the F-35, instead of focusing on production.

The plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin but including parts made in several other countries, has been sold to a number of nations, including the UK, Japan, Italy, Turkey and South Korea.

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.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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