F-35 jets: US military grounds entire fleet

Sergio Conner
October 11, 2018

The Pentagon said in a statement Thursday that the USA military and its global partners, which have also purchased F-35 fighter jets from contractor Lockheed Martin, would be suspending flight operations to inspect the fuel tubes out of caution.

Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II's assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018.

An official report questioned earlier this year whether the F-35 was ready for combat after dozens of faults were found. If the aircraft has good fuel tubes, it will be allowed to begin flying again.

He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced.

The inspection was prompted by initial data from the investigation into the crash of a Marine Corps F-35B from a training squadron at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC.

The F-35 program, the most expensive weapon in US military history, has been marred by delays and cost overruns and other mechanical issues.

In the September 28 crash in SC near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the pilot safely ejected from the aircraft, which belonged to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the "Warlords".

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Inspections were expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars.

The F-35 program is expected to cost the Pentagon about $406 billion for 2,456 fighter jets that the services intend to buy, according to the Joint Program Office. Once these are checked or replaced the aircraft will be back in the air.

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.

But the MOD said F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, were continuing and the programme remained on schedule to provide United Kingdom armed forces with "a game-changing capability". But the problem has already been identified as faulty fuel tubes.

However there is no going back now.

"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".

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.

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