US F-35 Jets are Grounded Following Crash

Capt. Andrew

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for the F-35, from its first combat airstrike, to its first crash, to the Pentagon ordering the entire F-35 fleet grounded as it inspects a possibly-dangerous aircraft part.

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.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the Pentagon's Joint Program Office, which oversees the F-35, said in a statement.

The inspections come in the wake of an F-35B jet crash outside of Beaufort, S.C. on September 28.

"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 Israeli Air Force, which said it also has grounded its version of the F-35 for "several days" of testing, suggested a more definitive finding has emerged in the continuing USA probe.

It was not immediately clear how many aircraft were affected.

"If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status", DellaVedova said.

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At Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC, both British and American pilots are learning how to fly the F-35B. The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat jet, but the aircraft was completely destroyed.

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

In this 2016 file photo, an Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheba, Israel. The Air Force has 156, the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28, according to data provided by the joint program office.

Officials said most of the global fleet of about 320 jets could be grounded for up to 48 hours while investigators inspect fuel tubes in engines that are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

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

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.

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.

Because of the ongoing investigation, he said he had no comment on the specifics of the flight disruption.

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