United States military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

F-35 fighter jet. Pic MoD

F-35 fighter jet. Pic MoD

The UK grounded its fleet of £120 million per plane ($158.5 million) F-35 stealth fighters following the crash of a U.S. jet in September.

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. "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours", Military.com reported. The roughly $100 million F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin; Pratt & Whitney supplies the engine.

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.

According to CNN, the Air Force has 156 F-35 aircraft in inventory; the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28.

USA officials said the suspension would apply only to those F-35s with a certain kind of fuel tube, which one official estimated at roughly half the fleet.

The ADF said the groundings triggered by the United States crash "will not affect the delivery of aircraft to Australia". If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. "If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status", the Defense Department said in a statement.

The Royal Navy has told Sky News that one of the F-35s onboard the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has been checked and is flying again.

But if the planes are "required for operational action, the F-35I aircraft are ready and prepared", a statement read.

Palestinian gunman kills two Israelis in West Bank: Israeli military
A wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis broke out in 2015, but they have since become sporadic. After the attack the suspect fled the scene, still armed with the submachine gun, the military said .

"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.

RAAF F-35 A35-009 parked on the "Australian flight line" at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

Initial data from the ongoing investigation into the September 28 crash indicates a fuel tube may have been faulty.

The crash in SC involved an F-35B, which is able to land vertically and costs around $100m (£75m).

A spokesman for the F-35s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said Thursday morning that industry partners were working with the F-35's Joint Program Office to investigate the problems. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems.

"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", said Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program.

The Israeli warplanes, purchased from the US, are a different model than the American one that crashed.

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