As previously reported by the Inquisitr, a Lockheed-Martin F-35 crashed in South Carolina last month, and that has led to the grounding of the entire fleet of F-35s worldwide pending inspection of fuel tubes.
The F-35 Joint Program Office announced the grounding in a statement on Thursday, according to MilitaryTimes.
“The U.S. Services and international 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.”
Pentagon F-35 spokesman Joe DellaVedova stated separately that all F-35 aircraft on U.S. military bases worldwide will be inspected for faulty fuel tubes in the engines, per a story on CNBC. If the faulty part exists, it will be replaced, while aircraft that already have the known good part will be reinstated as flight worthy. The entire process is expected to take 24 to 48 hours.
The global grounding was driven by an F-35 crash in Beaufort, South Carolina, on September 28, 2018, in which the pilot ejected safely. It was the first crash of an F-35 since the aircraft entered service in 2006. The aircraft involved in the crash was from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known in the Marine Corps as the “Warlords.” Just a day before, an F-35 had seen its first U.S. combat engagement, deploying from the amphibious warship Essex to bomb targets in Afghanistan. The Marine Corps called the mission a success.
Although the suspension call was for all United States F-35 aircraft worldwide to be grounded, that call apparently does not extend to aircraft in other countries. The British Ministry of Defence posted on its Twitter account that the U.K. version of the aircraft is not grounded, though they have temporarily paused flights of some units pending their own inspection.
There are three variants of the F-35: the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35C. The F-35A is a conventional aircraft that utilizes standard land-based runways. The F-35B is a short takeoff and landing aircraft, made to be used in conjunction with smaller Marine Corps amphibious watercraft, and the F-35C is a variant designed to take off and land on aircraft carriers. The only variant that has not yet been approved for combat operations is the F-35C, and it should be approved for United States Navy use in February 2019. The aircraft that crashed in September was an F-35B, but it’s thought that the fuel tube defect extends across all three variants, rather than being specifically related to the jet with short takeoff and landing capability.