Lockheed's Troubled F-35 Grounded by Pentagon After First Crash

Lamar Ellis
October 12, 2018

The Pentagon has grounded a global fleet of F-35 fighter jets after one of the planes crashed for the first time.

Nine.com.au has contacted the Department of Defence to determine whether the fault potentially affects these jets.

It was not immediately clear how many aircraft were affected.

On the same day of the F-35's American combat debut, two F-35s took off from and landed on a British aircraft carrier for the first time.

According to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a Pentagon spokesman, some of the fighter jets have been inspected and are flying again.

The decision comes in the wake of a Marine Corps' F-35B crash in SC last month.

The Air Force has 156 F-35 aircraft in inventory; the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28.

The inspection was prompted by initial data from the investigation into the crash of a Marine Corps F-35B from a training squadron at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC.

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The pilot, a U.S. Marine, according to officials, ejected safely.

During the crash investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. "But it does seem to me kind of ludicrous that we get new aircraft off the production line and within a month they are at 65 percent readiness".

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft's lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5 trillion. "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours", Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said in a statement to Fox News. Depending on the availability of parts, the fuel tube can be replaced quickly.

The US government announced on Thursday that flights of the jet would be paused as a precaution, prompting Britain and other military allies such as Israel to follow suit.

"From the ongoing investigation, I am glad that the Department of Defense took swift and decisive action to keep the F-35 fleet and its pilots safe", said Turner, who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on tactical air and land forces.

The Israeli military said the US has shared the findings of its investigation into the F-35 crash two weeks ago.

According to data for fiscal year 2017, the most recent available, the Air Force's F-35A models had around a 55 percent readiness rate, well below that target. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is off the eastern US seaboard in the Atlantic Ocean conducting developmental test trials of the joint strike fighter for the United Kingdom.

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.

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