Pentagon grounds global fleet of F-35s after crash

Two F-35 fighter jets land in Israel

The decision to inspect the aircraft fuel tubes stemmed from an ongoing investigation into the F-35B crash that occurred shortly after a takeoff from the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina on September 28.

The U.S. military on Thursday grounded its entire fleet of F-35 stealth fighters after one of the jets crashed during a training mission in SC last month, officials said Thursday. Planes known to have working fuel tubes installed will return to the skies. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes would be returned to operational status.

Inspections were expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours.

On September 28, a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in SC.

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

The Marine pilot safely ejected before the crash.

A USA official says only half the current fleet of aircraft have the fuel tube, but inspections will be carried out on the entire US fleet.

Inspections are expected to last a day or two, the department said.

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

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35". It promises to be the centrepiece of United States air power for decades to come.

The Israeli military said it was taking additional precautions and conducting tests on its version of the F-35, known as the F-35I.

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

Although the Marine Corps is the first USA service to fly its joint strike fighters in combat, the aircraft has been used by the Israeli air force to strike targets.

For the U.S. Defense Department, the timing could not be worse. The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

The entire global fleet of F-35s - including Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy variants - will stay on the ground while inspectors look at the airplanes' engines.

Problems have been surrounding the expensive Lockheed Martin-produced aircraft for years.

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.

However, the inspections are looking at a certain kind of fuel tube that is estimated to be in about half the F-35 fleet, USA officials told The Washington Post. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion. F-35s have already been delivered to the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Norway.

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