F-35 Jets: Military grounds entire fleet

US military grounds its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of South Carolina crash

A F-35B aircraft

As a result of an initial investigation, the 245 F-35s being used in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will be grounded in an operational pause so inspections can be carried out to see if "a suspect fuel tube" in the plane's engine has been installed.

The F-35 is only just entering service but it is already the most expensive weapons programme of all time.

"The U.S. Services and global 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. Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours".

Proponents tout the F-35's radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

The inspection is "is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina" on September 28, according to the statement.

3SQN pilots and maintenance personnel are now training on the F-35 with the US Air Force's 56th Fighter Wing at Luke. "But it does seem to me kind of ludicrous that we get new aircraft off the production line and within a month they are at 65 percent readiness".

During the crash investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. If the aircraft has those particular tubes, they will be replaced.

Britain said the Pentagon measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been "paused", not grounded. The pilot was able to eject safely, but the aircraft was a total loss.

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. The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

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.

The US Air Force and European customers consider the F-35's operating costs a major problem.

He added, however, that F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are continuing and the program remains on schedule.

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

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.

Latest News