Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

US Grounds Global Fleet Of F-35 After South Carolina Crash

US Grounds Global Fleet Of F-35 After South Carolina Crash

The U.S. Defense Department has temporarily suspended flight operations of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 after its first crash prompted inspections of the fighter jet fleet.

The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fly different versions of the stealthy fighter.

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.

According to a source at Lockheed Martin, the inspections are not expected to significantly impact delivery or production of the jets. If it is found that good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.

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

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

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 U.S. Marine Corps version of Lockheed Martin's F35 Joint Strike Fighter.

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35".

The F-35 program is expected to cost the Pentagon about $406 billion for 2,456 fighter jets that the services intend to buy, according to the Joint Program Office.

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.

So far, the USA military has taken delivery of 245 F-35s, majority to the Air Force. In May, Israel Defense Forces officials confirmed that the country's F-35 "Adir" fighters had seen combat in two airstrikes somewhere in the Middle East.

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

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

For the U.S. Defense Department, the timing could not be worse.

The F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the aircraft.

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.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has projected a total lifetime cost of $1 trillion for the program.

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