World News

Pentagon grounds F-35 fighter jets in wake of crash

Pentagon grounds F-35 fighter jets in wake of crash

The decision to inspect the aircraft fuel tubes stemmed from an ongoing investigation into the F-35B crash that occurred shortly after a takeoff from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina on September 28.

The entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets has been grounded to inspect the aircraft for suspected faulty fuel tubes, the USA military said.

The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status". "The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available". The Marine pilot safely ejected from the plane.

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.

For the F-35, it's not clear yet how many jets will be grounded for the long term.

Military officials said the inspections ordered this week are to help prevent any future incidents. "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".

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.

The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact global partners, such as Israel, that have the F-35.

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So far, the U.S. military has taken delivery of 245 F-35s, majority to the Air Force.

For the U.S. Defense Department, the timing could not be worse. About half the F-35s are believed to have the faulty tube, and they include aircraft owned by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The F-35 program, the most expensive weapon in US military history, has been marred by delays and cost overruns and other mechanical issues. "So why is there such a disparity between military aircraft, that are brand new, and commercial aircraft?" The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

The U.S. Marine Corps version of Lockheed Martin's F35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-35B is the short takeoff, vertical landing variant of the aircraft, which allows the pilot to hover and land vertically like a helicopter - a necessity for the Marines, which typically operate from amphibious ships with smaller decks than aircraft carriers. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems. Depending on the availability of parts, the fuel tube can be replaced quickly.

Inspections are expected to last a day or two, the department said.

The stand down affects more than 200 jets while an "inspection of a fuel tube" in F-35 engines takes place, according to a Pentagon spokesman. John Pendleton, an official for the federal watchdog agency Government Accountability Office, said there hasn't been enough focus within the Air Force on sustaining the F-35, instead of focusing on production.


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