F-35 jets: U.S. military grounds entire fleet

Hugh Fox
October 12, 2018

Britain was forced to ground all 16 of its new F-35 fighter jets after the USA government discovered that a faulty fuel tube was behind a crash last month.

Less than two weeks ago, two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs flew the first American combat missions for the new joint strike fighter.

The inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours, the Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.

The United States temporarily suspended operations for its fleet of F-35 fighter jets for 24 to 48 hours to check for possible faulty fuel tubes in the engines of the planes, after a crash in SC late last month raised concerns about whether the parts were to blame.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", according to the Joint Program Office statement. If it is found that good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.

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The pilot in that incident ejected safely but the aircraft was destroyed.

A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in SC on September 28.

The F-35 joint strike fighter is the most expensive program in the Pentagon's history.

According to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, the United States and its global partners - including Britain and Israel - have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations for a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft.

In April, a Marine Corps F-35B out the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, was forced to make an emergency landing when the aircraft fuel light came on. But Israel's air force chief, Maj.

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Britain has 16 F-35B jets and has pledged to buy 138 in total.

The Israeli warplanes, purchased from the USA, are a different model than the American one that crashed.

About half the F-35s are believed to have the faulty tube, and they include aircraft owned by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The temporary suspension of all F-35 flights is an embarrassment given the extraordinary cost of this frequently troubled programme. 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 grounding order affects all variants of the advanced fighter jets, including the Air Force's F-35A and the Navy's F-35C.

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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.

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