Pentagon Orders Entire F-35 Fleet Grounded

A Royal Australian Air Force airman walks on the wing of an F-35A Lightning II at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on Aug. 6

Pentagon Orders Entire F-35 Fleet Grounded

The US military has temporarily grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a crash in SC last month.

The first USA combat mission conducted by an F-35 happened last month when a Marine Corps jet launched off the amphibious warship USS Essex struck targets in Afghanistan.

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. If the aircraft has good fuel tubes, it will be allowed to begin flying again.

"At this time, the cause of the mishap has not yet been determined", said Capt. Christopher Harrison, a U.S. Marine Corps spokesman. "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours", Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said in a statement to Fox News.

"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".

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 Joint Program Office statement included "international partners" in the flight operation grounding, though the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence tweeted they have only "paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry".

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", according to the statement.

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

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.

The F-35 programme has been hit by numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that also led to commanders temporarily grounding the aircraft.

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.

According to data for fiscal year 2017, the most recent available, the Air Force's F-35A models had around a 55 percent readiness rate, well below that target.

The Marine Corps declared the F-35B operational in 2015, becoming the first service to integrate the joint strike fighter into its fleet.

Now the US military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. But the problem has already been identified as faulty fuel tubes.

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.

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