Friday, 19 October, 2018

Pentagon temporarily grounds Fort Worth-made F-35s after crash prompts inspections

The F-35B Lightning II fifth generation multi-role combat aircraft showing its vertical lift fan at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort U.S. military suspends operations for F-35 fighter jets, citing safety concerns
Faye Gross | 12 October, 2018, 08:13

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

The F-35 is only just entering service but it is already the most expensive weapons programme of all time.

According to the Marine Corps Times, "investigators. suspect there is a widespread problem with the advanced fighter's fuel tubes".

However, the inspections are looking at a certain kind of fuel tube that is estimated to be in about half the F-35 fleet, USA officials told The Washington Post.

The Marine version of the jet is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, and one flew its first combat mission last month in Afghanistan.

The news was reported by multiple outlets, including Task & Purpose and The Marine Corps Times, and comes after a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II was destroyed in a crash September 28 on Little Barnwell Island, just a few miles from the air station.

Britain has 16 F-35B jets and has pledged to buy 138 in total.

"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", DellaVedova said.

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The Israeli warplanes, purchased from the USA, are a different model than the American one that crashed.

When the planes first touched down on United Kingdom soil, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world". If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", according to the statement. The Air Force has 156, the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems. The roughly $100 million F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin; Pratt & Whitney supplies the engine.

The Pentagon grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters Thursday so that engineers could conduct urgent inspections following the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history.

According to Pentagon figures, 320 F-35s have been delivered globally, mainly to the USA but also Israel and Britain, as well as other partner countries. 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.

The plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin but including parts made in several other countries, has been sold to a number of nations, including the UK, Japan, Italy, Turkey and South Korea.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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