Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Pentagon grounds global fleet of F35s after crash

Pentagon grounds global fleet of F35s after crash

The entire fleet of U.S. F-35s have been grounded worldwide, according to a Pentagon statement released on Thursday. The news comes days after reports surfaced that Defense Secretary James Mattis ordered the Air Force and Navy to significantly improve "mission capable rates", or readiness, of the F-35 and three other tactical aircraft fleets-referring to the percentage of time the aircraft are available to fly versus being down for maintenance.

The stand down affects more than 200 jets while an "inspection of a fuel tube" in F-35 engines takes place, according to a Pentagon spokesman.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of a House Armed Services Committee subpanel, said Thursday that he received a briefing from the Marine Corps on the crash in Beaufort, S.C.

Inspections were expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours.

Certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem.

Last month, the Pentagon announced that the latest batch of F-35s would cost the military $89 million per unit for the most common variant - the first time the plane's price tag had dropped below $90 million.

It is an embarrassing development for the F-35 programme, the largest and most expensive weapons project of its type in the world.

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).

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"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernise the F-35 for the warfighter and our defence partners".

For the U.S. Defense Department, the timing could not be worse.

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

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents".

The crash in SC involved an F-35B, which is able to land vertically and costs around $100m (£75m). Planes known to have working fuel tubes installed will return to the skies.

Foreign operators of the F-35, such as Britain or Israel, are also grounding their fighter jets for inspection, according to the JPO statement. 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 Air Force has 156, the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28.

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.

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.

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