RAAF pauses F-35 flying for safety inspections

RAAF pauses F-35 flying for safety inspections

RAAF pauses F-35 flying for safety inspections

A fleet of F-35 fighter jets have been temporarily grounded in order to inspect the aircraft after a crash in SC last month.

The first USA combat mission conducted by an F-35 happened last month when a Marine Corps jet launched off the amphibious warship USS Essex struck targets in Afghanistan.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", according to the Joint Program Office statement. Planes known to have working fuel tubes installed will return to the skies.

Inspections are expected to be completed within the next two days, the statement said, and a defense official told CNN some aircraft have already been returned to flight status.

Of the 280 operational F-35s purchased to date by the USA and global partners, only about half can fly, Vice Adm.

He added, however, that F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are continuing and the program remains on schedule.

In April, a Marine Corps F-35B out the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, was forced to make an emergency landing when the aircraft fuel light came on.

The office said the grounding "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 pilot survived after ejecting.


The United States temporarily suspended all F-35 operations worldwide after the first-ever crash of the advanced F-35 Lightning II fighter jet in September. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all have different versions of the stealthy fighter.

The order sent ripples through the Pentagon, where officials have for years bemoaned a general lack of readiness for key equipment. The military, however, has stuck with production of the joint-strike fighter.

Foreign operators of the F-35, such as Britain or Israel, are also grounding their fighter jets for inspection, according to the JPO statement.

"Australian F-35 aircraft now based in the USA will return to flying operations once safety inspections are complete".

Proponents tout the F-35's radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

But the program has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to temporarily ground the planes.

Trump has taken personal responsibility for driving down the cost of the F-35 fighter jet program by $600 to $700 million, but the Pentagon had already targeted per-unit cost reductions in that range over the lifetime of the program.

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