Monday, 10 December, 2018

F-35 jets: US military grounds entire fleet

U.S. military suspends operations for F-35 fighter jets, citing safety concerns All US F-35s grounded worldwide
Jeannette Daniel | 11 October, 2018, 21:55

The three USA 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.

However, the inspections are looking at a certain kind of fuel tube that is estimated to be in about half the F-35 fleet, USA officials told The Washington Post.

The F-35 stealth jet has been called the most expensive weapons system in history, and its development was beset by multiple delays before it was deemed combat ready.

The action to perform the inspection is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on 28 September.

The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all have their versions of the F-35, each of which costs about $100 million.

A spokesman for the F-35s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said Thursday morning that industry partners were working with the F-35's Joint Program Office to investigate the problems.

According to the Marine Corps Times, "investigators. suspect there is a widespread problem with the advanced fighter's fuel tubes".

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Mr DellaVedova added that if "known good" tubes are already in place, then those planes will be returned to operational status.

More than 320 F-35s are already operating from 15 bases worldwide, although the Pentagon and Lockheed continue to wrestle with resolving more than 900 deficiencies, including flaws in the plane's complex software.

"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".

All three services have stopped flying the F-35 while fuel tubes in the aircraft are inspected and replaced if necessary. The decision comes in the wake of a Marine Corps' F-35B crash in SC last month. The Marine pilot was able to eject before the crash and did not suffer any serious injuries.

The Joint Program Office statement included "international partners" in the flight operation grounding, though the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence tweeted they have only "paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry". "So why is there such a disparity between military aircraft, that are brand new, and commercial aircraft?"

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. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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