Friday, 16 November, 2018

U.S. military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

The F-35B Lightning II fifth generation multi-role combat aircraft showing its vertical lift fan at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort U.S. military suspends operations for F-35 fighter jets, citing safety concerns
Kenny Thornton | 12 October, 2018, 08:09

US airmen walk next to a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, as it is moved, on the eve of the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 18, 2017.

Officials said most of the global fleet of about 320 jets could be grounded for up to 48 hours while investigators inspect fuel tubes in engines that are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in SC on September 28.

Flight operations for the strike fighter have been temporarily suspended as the military conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engines of all F-35 aircraft, a Pentagon spokesman told Task & Purpose.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", the Pentagon said in a statement.

About half the F-35s are believed to have the faulty tube, and they include aircraft owned by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

The F-35 joint strike fighter is the most expensive program in the Pentagon's history.

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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.

"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. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is off the eastern USA seaboard in the Atlantic Ocean conducting developmental test trials of the joint strike fighter for the United Kingdom.

Britain has 16 F-35B jets and has pledged to buy 138 in total. If the aircraft has good fuel tubes, it will be allowed to begin flying again.

The grounding is in response to data from the ongoing investigation of the Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II that crashed near Beaufort, S.C. on September 28, according to a statement by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", according to the statement.

The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the aircraft. The Air Force has 156, the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28, according to data provided by the joint program office. 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 temporary suspension of all F-35 flights is an embarrassment given the extraordinary cost of this frequently troubled programme. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems.

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