Pentagon grounds F-35 fighter jets in wake of crash

A United States Air Force F-35B Lighting II jet manufactured by Lockheed Martin at the Singapore Airshow on Feb. 7 2018. Seong Joon Cho  Bloomberg

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.

All variants of the jet, including the Air Force "A" version and Navy "C" version, are included, according to Lee Hudson of Aviation Week. During the subsequent investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. If the aircraft has good fuel tubes, it will be allowed to begin flying again.

Of the 280 operational F-35s purchased to date by the USA and global partners, only about half can fly, Vice Adm.

The Pentagon said in a statement Thursday that the USA military and its worldwide partners, which have also purchased F-35 fighter jets from contractor Lockheed Martin, would be suspending flight operations to inspect the fuel tubes out of caution.

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

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion.

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

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The United States temporarily suspended operations for its fleet of F-35 fighter jets for 24 to 48 hours to check for possible faulty fuel tubes in the engines of the planes, after a crash in SC late last month raised concerns about whether the part was to blame.

The announcement of the grounding comes after a United States Marine Corps F-35B from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the "Warlords", crashed in SC near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on September 28. The Marine pilot was able to eject before the crash and did not suffer any serious injuries.

"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.

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.

Mr DellaVedova said: "The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents". Mission capable rates now hover between 49 and 71 percent, according to Defense News, which first reported the order. The Israeli warplanes, purchased from the US, are a different model than the American one that crashed.

The F-35 program office said the inspections should be completed in one or two days.

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. Gen. Amikam Norkin, wants to conduct additional tests on Israel's F-35s.

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