Pentagon halts Lockheed Martin F-35 jet flights to examine fuel tubes

Pentagon halts Lockheed Martin F-35 jet flights to examine fuel tubes

The three USA armed services and worldwide militaries flying the single-engine F-35 all made the decision Thursday to temporarily halt flights while investigators conduct a fleetwide inspection for a faulty part-a fuel tube within the engine-according to Joe Dellavedova, a spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office.

"We will continue to review the situation as further information becomes available". "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours", Military.com reported.

A fleet of F-35 fighter jets have been temporarily grounded in order to inspect the aircraft after a crash in SC last month (file photo).

The F-35 grounding also comes a day after a Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel hearing on Air Force readiness that included the F-35.

In this 2016 file photo, an Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheba, Israel.

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

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

The Marine Corps and Air Force have confirmed the grounding of their F-35s is a precaution so the aircraft can be inspected.

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While its costs per aircraft are coming down there are still questions about how many planes the USA can afford and whether it should also buy a cheaper, less capable aircraft alongside the F-35.

The accident marked the first crash of an F-35 in the 17 years since Lockheed Martin won the competition for the fighter jet in October 2001 and teamed with other contractors to begin production of the high-profile plane.

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 more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

The issue as described by the JPO indicates the issue is believed to come from a subcontractor who supplied the fuel tubes for engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. In response, all USA military F-35s will be inspected as well as F-35s operated by United States allies. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion.

"The US 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", said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program.

The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the aircraft.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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