F-35 Jets: Military grounds entire fleet

Remigio Civitarese
Ottobre 11, 2018

"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. The Marine version of the jet is capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, and one flew its first combat mission last month in Afghanistan.

"The US Services and global 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", according to a statement issued by the Department of Defense.

"At this time, the cause of the mishap has not yet been determined", said Capt. Christopher Harrison, a U.S. Marine Corps spokesman.

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said: "The action to perform the inspection is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina".

While its costs per aircraft are coming down there are still questions about how many planes the U.S. can afford and whether it should also buy a cheaper, less capable aircraft alongside the F-35.

The F-35 has attracted attention not only for its capabilities but also for its cost, after delays and overruns helped make the fighter jet program the most expensive in the Pentagon's history.

The Italian Air Force has already completed its inspections and, as it did not find the faulty part, is back to normal flight operations, according to two sources.

It will equip the US Air Force and Marine Corps as well as several of Washington's allies.

During the crash 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 immediately flying again.

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

The Marine Corps declared the F-35B operational in 2015, becoming the first service to integrate the joint strike fighter into its fleet.

"F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability".

So far, the United States military has taken delivery of 245 F-35s, a lot of them to the Air Force. Depending on the availability of parts, the fuel tube can be replaced quickly.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has projected a total lifetime cost of $1 trillion for the program. F-35s have already been delivered to the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Norway.

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