Pentagon halts Lockheed Martin F-35 jet flights to examine fuel tubes

Howard TerryOct 12, 2018

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of a House Armed Services Committee subpanel, said Thursday that he received a briefing from the Marine Corps on the crash in Beaufort, S.C.

It will equip the US Air Force and Marine Corps as well as several of Washington's allies. During the subsequent investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. Planes known to have working fuel tubes installed will return to the skies.

The F-35 program is considered to be the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history.

The Pentagon said in a statement Thursday that the USA military and its worldwide partners, which have also purchased F-35 fighter jets from contractor Lockheed Martin, would be suspending flight operations to inspect the fuel tubes out of caution.

At Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC, both British and American pilots are learning how to fly the F-35B.

The F-35B crash in SC was the first ever such accident involving an F-35 variant.

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 temporary suspension of all F-35 flights is an embarrassment given the extraordinary cost of this frequently troubled programme. The Marine pilot was able to eject before the crash and did not suffer any serious injuries. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, raised questions on the troubles still facing the F-35 program and its readiness rate of about 65 percent.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents", DellaVedova said.

The Joint Program Office statement included "international partners" in the flight operation grounding, though the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence tweeted they have only "paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry".

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. In total, the aircraft program is projected to cost about $1 trillion to develop, produce, field and sustain over its lifetime, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Officials said most of the global fleet of about 320 jets could be grounded for up to 48 hours while investigators inspect fuel tubes in engines that are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies Corp. Gen. Amikam Norkin, wants to conduct additional tests on Israel's F-35s.

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