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


For the F-35, it's not clear yet how many jets will be grounded for the long term.

The planes are created to be the next generation of fighter jets, capable of carrying bombs and missiles but also rigged up with cyber capabilities - seen as a critical function for 21st century battlefields.

The news was reported by multiple outlets, including Task & Purpose and The Marine Corps Times, and comes after a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II was destroyed in a crash September 28 on Little Barnwell Island, just a few miles from the air station.

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". If it is found that good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status. Planes known to have working fuel tubes installed will return to the skies.

Military officials said the inspections ordered this week are to help prevent any future incidents.

On Thursday, the Israeli military also said it has grounded its fleet of F-35 warplanes.

More than 320 F-35s around the world must now undergo the inspections, according to a source familiar with the program.

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

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Now the US military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin.

It cost an estimated $400bn and had a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

The F-35B is the short takeoff, vertical landing variant of the aircraft, which allows the pilot to hover and land vertically like a helicopter - a necessity for the Marines, which typically operate from amphibious ships with smaller decks than aircraft carriers.

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.

According to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, the U.S. and its worldwide partners - including Britain and Israel - have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations for a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars.

The plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin but including parts made in several other countries, has been sold to a number of nations, including the UK, Japan, Italy, Turkey and South Korea.

This story is developing and will be updated.