United States military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

F-35 fighter jet. Pic MoD

Image F-35 fighter jet is the most expensive plane ever made. Pic MoD

The three US armed services and global 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.

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.

"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.

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

An official report questioned earlier this year whether the F-35 was ready for combat after dozens of faults were found.

On September 28, a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in SC. The F-35B is the Marine Corps version of the aircraft.

The Israeli Air Force, which said it also has grounded its version of the F-35 for "several days" of testing, suggested a more definitive finding has emerged in the continuing US probe.

The ADF said the groundings triggered by the USA crash "will not affect the delivery of aircraft to Australia". The JPO said that if the suspect fuel tubes are installed, they will be removed and replaced. If the aircraft has those, they will be replaced.

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Checks were being carried out to see whether the F-35s, the most advanced fighter jet ever created, have the same tubes as those which were used in the plane which went down.

The jet was based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and on a routine training missing at the time.

Of the 280 operational F-35s purchased to date by USA and worldwide partners, only 51 percent are now available for flight, Vice Adm. The Marine pilot safely ejected from the plane.

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 US Services and worldwide 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", according to a statement issued by the Department of Defense. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars.

Other nations that have signed contracts to join the F-35 program include the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway, according to the Pentagon.

"F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability", a British defence ministry spokesman said.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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