Pentagon Grounds Troubled F-35 Fighters After First Crash

Capt. Andrew

At Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC, both British and American pilots are learning how to fly the F-35B.

The F-35B crash in SC was the first ever such accident involving an F-35 variant.

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.

He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced.

The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status".

The inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours, the Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.

"The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the US Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available". The Marine pilot safely ejected before the crash. The Navy plans to have their own version of the F-35 flying from aircraft carriers by February 2019. Mat Winter, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, told reporters back in March.

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

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

It will equip the US Air Force and Marine Corps as well as several of Washington's allies.

Even before the F-35 grounding, experts speculated that Mattis's goal of reaching 80 percent readiness for these aircraft-the F-35, F-22, F-16, and F/A-18-was a pipe dream. The F-35B is the Marine Corps version of the aircraft. In May, Israel announced it had conducted the first combat missions ever using the F-35 but offered few details.

When the planes first touched down on United Kingdom soil, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world".

The F-35 is the largest and most expensive weapons programme of its type in the world.

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

"During this mission the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander", said a Marine Corps statement confirming the strike. In total, the aircraft program is projected to cost about $1 trillion to develop, produce, field and sustain over its lifetime, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the aircraft. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems.

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