Lockheed's Troubled F-35 Grounded by Pentagon After First Crash

Minnie Murray
October 13, 2018

The United States and its global Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) partners on 11 October temporarily suspended some flight operations to conduct a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube in the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine found on all F-35 aircraft.

It is an embarrassing development for the F-35 programme, the largest and most expensive weapons project of its type in the world.

Although the Marine Corps is the first USA service to fly its joint strike fighters in combat, the aircraft has been used by the Israeli air force to strike targets. "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours".

Israel has also chose to follow in the US' footsteps and announced that it had grounded all of its F-35 stealth fighter jets.

A Marine F-35B crashed into an uninhabited marsh island near the Grays Hill community in SC on September 28.

The Air Force has 156 F-35 aircraft in inventory; the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28.

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 US probe.

While its costs per aircraft are coming down there are still questions about how many planes the USA can afford and whether it should also buy a cheaper, less capable aircraft alongside the F-35.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", the Pentagon said in a statement. If the aircraft has those particular tubes, they will be replaced. In response, all U.S. military F-35s will be inspected as well as F-35s operated by U.S. allies.

Initial data from the ongoing investigation into the September 28 crash indicates a fuel tube may have been faulty.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the Pentagon's Joint Program Office, which oversees the F-35. "We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35 for the warfighter and our defense partners".

The pilot ejected and was not injured.

It will equip the US Air Force and Marine Corps as well as several of Washington's allies. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars.

"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".

In a statement, the F-35 Joint Program Office said the U.S. and its worldwide partners had suspended flight operations while a fleet-wide inspection of fuel tubes was conducted.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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