Pentagon grounds global fleet of F-35 stealth aircraft after crash
The Pentagon in the US yesterday grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighter jets to conduct engine inspections, following its first-ever crash.
A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in South Carolina on September 28.
The flight operations were suspended for a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft, an official said.
Pentagon grounds global fleet of F-35s after crash
Suspect fuel tubes to be removed and replaced, says official
Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes will be returned to operational status. Inspections were expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours.
320 aircraft have been delivered globally to Britain, Israel
According to figures, 320 F-35s have been delivered globally, mainly to the US but also Israel and Britain, among others.
Britain said the Pentagon measure didn't affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying-missions had been "paused," not grounded.
"F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule," a British Defense Ministry spokesman said.
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Israel military taking additional precautions, conducting tests on aircraft
The Israeli military said it was taking additional precautions and conducting tests on its F-35s.
But if the planes are "required for operational action, the F-35I aircraft are ready and prepared," a statement read.
The crash, which the pilot survived after ejecting, came only one day after US military first used the F-35 in combat when Marine Corps fighters hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan.
Mattis took a strict order on the fleet this week
On Wednesday, Defense News reported that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ordered the Air Force and Navy to make 80% of the fleet of key fighters, including the F-35, mission capable within a year.
The order sent ripples through the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Department of Defense, where officials have long bemoaned a general lack of readiness for key equipment.
F-35, most expensive weapon system in US history
Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history, with an estimated cost of some 400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.
Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.
Despite F-35's brilliant military characteristics, program faced delays, cost overruns
Proponents tout the F-35's radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information. But the program has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014.