Pentagon grounds F-35 fighter jets in wake of crash

A file image of a Lockheed Martin F-35B for the US Marines

"The U.S. Services and global 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", the F-35 Joint Program Office announced in a statement Thursday morning.

The decision involves a potentially bad fuel tube and affects more than 250 USA -owned jets, as well as almost 100 that belong to other nations including Britain.

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. But last month's incident was the first time the plane had crashed during flight.

A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in SC on September 28.

But less than 24 hours later a different Marine F-35B out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC crashed just five miles away from the base - the first crash in the aircraft's 17-year history. This allows the plane to hover and land vertically like a helicopter and is a critical requirement for the Marine Corps, which often operates from amphibious ships with smaller decks than the Navy's aircraft carriers. If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known properly functioning fuel tubes are already installed, those aircraft would be returned to flight status. "Some worldwide partners within the F-35 program are already commencing flying following conclusion of their inspections". The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion.

The pilot, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, ejected safely, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.

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

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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 crash in SC involved an F-35B, which is able to land vertically and costs around $100m (£75m).

"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".

The US Air Force and European customers consider the F-35's operating costs a major problem.

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

According to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, the USA and its worldwide partners - including Britain and Israel - have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations for a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft.

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