Pentagon Orders Entire F-35 Fleet Grounded

F-35 fighter jet. Pic MoD

The Pentagon grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters on Thursday, as a result of the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history.

The decision to inspect the aircraft fuel tubes stemmed from an ongoing investigation into the F-35B crash that occurred shortly after a takeoff from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina on September 28. Planes known to have working fuel tubes installed will return to the skies.

Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon's F-35 office said inspections "are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours".

"Safety is our paramount concern, therefore the United Kingdom has made a decision to pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry", a British Defense Ministry spokesman said.

More than 320 F-35s around the world must now undergo the inspections, according to a source familiar with the program.

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.

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35".

The Marine Corps declared the F-35B operational in 2015, becoming the first service to integrate the joint strike fighter into its fleet. US officials said the suspension would apply only to those F-35s with a certain kind of fuel tube, which one official estimated at roughly half the fleet.

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During the crash investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015.

Military officials said the inspections ordered this week are to help prevent any future incidents.

"F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability".

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.

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.

Now the USA military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has projected a total lifetime cost of $1 trillion for the program.

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.

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