Pentagon Grounds F-35 Fleet After Crash

Pentagon Grounds F-35 Fleet After Crash

Pentagon Grounds F-35 Fleet After Crash

The American model reportedly came off the Lockheed Martin production line in about 2015, and U.S. authorities have indicated that if a faulty fuel line was the cause it was unlikely to affect all Pratt and Whitney engines across the F-35 Lightning II fleet of 350 completed planes.

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

The accident marked the first crash of an F-35 in the 17 years since Lockheed Martin won the competition for the fighter jet in October 2001 and teamed with other contractors to begin production of the high-profile plane.

The inspection of the fuel tubes is already underway, and expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours, Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the Pentagon's Joint Program Office, told Task & Purpose.

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 office said the grounding "is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on 28 September".

The Marine Corps and Air Force have confirmed the grounding of their F-35s is a precaution so the aircraft can be inspected.

USA 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.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", DellaVedova said.

The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status".

Britain said the Pentagon measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been "paused", not grounded.

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.

A pilot sits in the cockpit of an F-35 fighter jet preparing for a training mission at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah. The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

"The US services and worldwide 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", said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program.

The United Kingdom, an F-35 partner, said it was pausing some, but not all, flight operations. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems.

For the U.S. Defense Department, the timing could not be worse.

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