Pentagon grounds entire fleet of F-35s following crash

Pentagon grounds entire fleet of F-35s following crash

The Pentagon said in a statement Thursday that the USA military and its worldwide partners, which have also purchased F-35 fighter jets from contractor Lockheed Martin, would be suspending flight operations to inspect the fuel tubes out of caution.

To date, the US military has purchased 245 F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin.

The incident occurred only one day after the United States military first used the F-35 in combat, when Marine Corps jets hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan. Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours, Dellavedova said. In May, Israeli officials confirmed that the country's F-35 "Adir" had conducted two airstrikes somewhere in the Middle East.

On September 28, a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in SC.

According to CNN, the Air Force has 156 F-35 aircraft in inventory; the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28.

The US Marine Corp led the way with a flight ban on all of its F-35s after one suffered a catastrophic engine failure and crashed in SC in September 28 - the pilot ejected safely, but the remains of the broken fuselage had to be picked out of boggy marshlands near Beaufort.

The ADF said the groundings triggered by the U.S. crash "will not affect the delivery of aircraft to Australia".

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", DellaVedova said. "If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status", the Defense Department said in a statement.

The most expensive weapons system around, the F-35s have been plagued by a flurry of problems which have sent the costs soaring.

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35". The pilot ejected safely from the single-seat jet, but the aircraft was completely destroyed. The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

According to the Pentagon, the decision to temporarily suspend operations for the fleet results from initial data that investigators gathered in their probe of last month's crash.

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

The temporary suspension of all F-35 flights is an embarrassment given the extraordinary cost of this frequently troubled programme.

Because the problem is related to a fleetwide engine issue, rather than just in the F-35B models, it appears unlikely that the problem is unrelated to the short-takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the Marine's design.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has projected a total lifetime cost of $1 trillion for the program.

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