The services are checking out an engine issue linked to last month’s crash.
The U.S. military’s growing force of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is temporarily grounded until the services can inspect the planes for a potential problem. The Pentagon office overseeing the fighter program linked the grounding to the F-35’s first crash last month in September. A Marine F-35B crashed near a military base in Beaufort, South Carolina, a crash from which the pilot safely ejected.
The Pentagon announced the grounding this morning, October 11th, stating that Air Force, Navy, and Marines would take 24 to 48 hours to check fuel tubes in all versions of the Joint Strike Fighter. “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,” the F-35 Joint Program Office statement reads, as reprinted by U.S. Naval Institute News.
“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 on 28 September. The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available.”
“If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced,” The JPO stated. “If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.”
Although the statement includes international customers of the F-35 program, the BBC states the UK’s test flights involving HMS Queen Elizabeth off the East Coast continue. The aircraft fleet back in Great Britain will take the inspection pause.
The F-35 flew its first combat mission just hours before the September crash, with Marine Corps F-35Bs striking a Taliban position in Afghanistan from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex.