Monday, 10 December, 2018

Pentagon grounds F-35 fighter jets in wake of crash

The U.S. Marine Corps version of Lockheed Martin's F35 Joint Strike Fighter The U.S. Marine Corps version of Lockheed Martin's F35 Joint Strike Fighter
Pablo Mccormick | 12 October, 2018, 03:24

"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".

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", according to the Joint Program Office statement.

It marked the first crash of the US military's newest and most expensive aircraft, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported.

The U.S. Defense Department has temporarily suspended flight operations of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 after its first crash prompted inspections of the fighter jet fleet.

The Italian Air Force has already completed its inspections and, as it did not find the faulty part, is back to normal flight operations, according to two sources.

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The jet was based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and on a routine training missing at the time.

The United States temporarily suspended operations for its fleet of F-35 fighter jets for 24 to 48 hours to check for possible faulty fuel tubes in the engines of the planes, after a crash in SC late last month raised concerns about whether the part was to blame.

On Sept. 28, a Marine F-35B crashed into an uninhabited marsh island near the Grays Hill community in SC. The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat jet, but the aircraft was completely destroyed.

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

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35".

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Other nations that have signed contracts to join the F-35 program include the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway, according to the Pentagon.

The grounding news also comes two days after Defense News reported that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the military services to get readiness rates on four planes, including the F-35, up above 80 percent by next September.

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

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

Now the US military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars.

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Officials said most of the global fleet of about 320 jets could be grounded for up to 48 hours while investigators inspect fuel tubes in engines that are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

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