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Pentagon grounds F-35 fighter jets in wake of crash

Two F-35 fighter jets land in Israel Two F-35 fighter jets land in Israel
Deanna Wagner | 12 October, 2018, 03:23

"The U.S. 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", the F-35 Joint Program Office announced in a statement Thursday morning.

In a statement, the F-35 Joint Program Office said the United States and its worldwide partners had suspended flight operations while a fleet-wide inspection of fuel tubes was conducted.

According to the Marine Corps Times, "investigators. suspect there is a widespread problem with the advanced fighter's fuel tubes". If the aircraft has good fuel tubes, it will be allowed to begin flying again.

The inspection was prompted by initial data from the investigation into the crash of a Marine Corps F-35B from a training squadron at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC. The Marine pilot safely ejected from the plane. The combat debut for the F-35B happened on September 27, when two F-35Bs from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit launched from the USS Essex, a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.

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 Marine Corps declared the F-35B operational in 2015, becoming the first service to integrate the joint strike fighter into its fleet. In May, Israeli officials confirmed that the country's F-35 "Adir" had conducted two airstrikes somewhere in the Middle East.

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Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours, Dellavedova said.

The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps plan to buy a total of 2,456 F-35s, at an estimated cost of $325 billion. In response, all USA military F-35s will be inspected as well as F-35s operated by U.S. allies.

It will equip the US Air Force and Marine Corps as well as several of Washington's allies. The engines of the aircraft will be checked for suspected faulty tubes and replacements made where necessary.

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 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 global partners, only 51 percent are now available for flight, Vice Adm. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, raised questions on the troubles still facing the F-35 program and its readiness rate of about 65 percent. Gen. Amikam Norkin, wants to conduct additional tests on Israel's F-35s.