Oct 11, 2018, 4:34 PM ET

US military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

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The U.S. military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35s in the wake of one of the planes crashing in South Carolina two weeks ago.

As a result of an initial investigation, the 245 F-35s being used in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will be grounded in an operational pause so inspections can identify which planes have a type of fuel tube suspected as the cause of the crash so it can then be replaced.

PHOTO: Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018.Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/U.S. Air Force
Two U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II's assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly a combat mission over Afghanistan, Sept. 27, 2018.

"The US 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," according to a statement issued by the Department of Defense's Joint Program Office that oversees the F-35. "If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced."

A U.S. official says only half the current fleet of aircraft have the fuel tube, but inspections will be carried out on the entire U.S. fleet.

The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact international partners, such as Israel and the United Kingdom, that have the F-35. There are 75 F-35s in the international fleet.

The Israeli Defense Ministry tweeted that the "Israeli Air Force halted all F-35I flights until all aircraft are tested" for "a technical malfunction in the engine’s fuel tube."

The British Defence Ministry also tweeted a clarification that it was not grounding its F-35 aircraft, but "paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry."

The wide-ranging grounding of the entire fleet comes after a Marine F-35B joint strike fighter went down in Beaufort, South Carolina, on Sept. 28. The Marine pilot safely ejected from the plane in what was the first crash for the F-35 aircraft that will become the main fighter for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

PHOTO: Smoke bellows from a military jet that crashed, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 in Beaufort, S.C.Kensley Crosby/AP, FILE
Smoke bellows from a military jet that crashed, Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 in Beaufort, S.C.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents," according to the statement. "We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35 for the warfighter and our defense partners."

The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status."

"We are actively partnering with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, our global customers and Pratt & Whitney to support the resolution of this issue and limit disruption to the fleet," said a statement issued by Lockheed Martin, the airplane manufacturer that makes the F-35. Pratt & Whitney makes the engine used in the F-35.

Inspections are expected to last a day or two, the department said.

“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," Representative Mike Turner of Ohio who chairs the House Armed Services subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

"As Congress returns in the coming weeks, I will continue to hold hearings and briefings to keep our pilots safe and keep improving the F-35, which remains unparalleled in its capability as a fighter jet,” Turner added.

News - US military grounds entire fleet of F-35s in wake of crash

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  • Birmingham Jail Cell

    'F35 development' has been around since the 90's. I have an old friend who worked for GD/Lockheed for decades, usually on the fighter wings. He told me all sorts of 'horror stories' about the production of the F35... long after the fact.

    Not the most regal of 'American birds,' but I still marvel at the blood, sweat, tears and brains of American ingenuity roaring over Fort Worth against a crystal blue Texas sky.

  • The Outlier

    The F-35 is an unstable piece of garbage that puts every pilot flying one in mortal danger. At this point, after the continual problems with the F-35, we should be looking to recoup funds from defense contractors for gross incompetence, defrauding taxpayers, and putting this nation in danger.

    Reference the recent discovery by the Pentagon that ALL of our military's electronic warfare systems are vulnerable to hackers. ALL of them. I think raw profiteering and poor oversight have led to a defense industry that is more concerned with slurping up tax dollars than getting their jobs done. I think we no longer have core competency in advanced technologies in the defense industry. I think a serious review of defense spending is called for. It's bad enough that we spend so much $$$ on defense-- the things we buy should work, for crying out loud.

  • Erik "QJ" Jarandson

    Considering that even the most modern ejection seats cause an instant acceleration of 12 G, to the brink of causing compression fractures in the spine, and sometimes even over the brink, I'm not sure "safe" is the feeling one is left with after the experience. Still, all things being relative, and the alternative being what it is...

  • P'Thizikil

    You just can't expect that a cheap, trillion-dollar plane would hold together just because it is new. The Pentagon should get a refund. If your car crashed after leaving the lot and it was due to mechanical failure, would you just fix it and move on, or would you want to wring the dealer's neck? And then return the car because a fault that soon didn't bode well for the future?

  • George Lucas

    Serious question - ater a jet crashes, how do they figure out what went wrong? Surely most of the jet catches fire or is otherwise severely damaged with parts scattered all over the place, so how do they know what exactly caused the original problem?

  • EK the greek

    In other news f-35s scraped in favor of updating older planes while gen 6 (drone) planes get built

  • Tegbessou Géléhéso

    Did a single mishap stop Orville and Wilbur?

  • Chakan2

    When are we going to stop throwing money at that flying garbage can.

  • Eteamer

    Only way to stop a pilot with a bad fuel tube is a pilot with a good fuel tube.

  • helios

    Widow-makers.

  • TexWho

    Most expensive; in acquisition, maintenance, and operation; fighter ever built.

  • ROBOTIX JONES

    A TRILLION dollars spent on this project ALONE and we have nothing to show for it. We waste untold amounts of money on crap like this at the expense of NOT having affordable healthcare. It's sheer madness.

  • Robin Shuman

    We've come so far since the Wright Bros., We the People can spend $100,000,000 on a single plane that can't fly. The Regressives are winning !

  • RG

    Isn't this trillion dollar jet basically just a lemon? Nothing but problems from day one.

    A compromise aircraft packed with features, i.e. more complexity, to satisfy all the services. Bad idea.

  • Ruspert

    The modern day turbine engines should be the most reliable component on the aircraft and not subject to problems such as fuel lines. It sounds like a cover up story to keep the criticism to a minimum while the real cause is found or kept secret..

  • snowthrush

    Okay...let me get this straight...there are "good" fuel tubes and "bad" fuel tubes. Why are there bad fuel tubes, and if you know/knew they are bad, why are they in the fleet at all? I want good fuel tubes, not bad fuel tubes. BTW - I want two engines, not one.

  • Gumby4417

    It's a shame this happened, but this sounds like a problem that can be fixed. More troublesome are the ongoing problems they've had trying to get all of the systems on this very complicated aircraft to work together and link up with other aircraft and the airborne and ground control/radar systems. The technology is supposed to give everyone in the system a view of what the others are seeing, but it has never worked quite right. The costs of trying to deliver on the promises for the aircraft keep going up - way above what was promised by the manufacturers.

  • JDC1

    With the amount of tech that’s gone into those jets it’s kinda funny that a fuel line is grounding the entire fleet.

  • Thomas

    Sounds like a reasonable action to take.

  • Rubber Banned

    That aircraft might be the biggest military boondoggle ever.

  • Ruspert

    Waste of time and money, scrap it and forget the huge cost, that is water over the dam.

  • CoTrey

    Sure seems like we've got some folks in this comment section who think they know better than our military. It's being blown WAY out of proportion. They said they'd only be down for maybe a day. Come on now, let's not get carried away.

  • Paul Iannello

    so wheres the records on the retrofits for this faulty part?? really...down the whole fleet??..is anybody paying attention...