Entire US fleet of F-35s grounded for engine inspections

All US F-35s grounded worldwide

US military grounds its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of South Carolina crash

The skies over the Lowcountry might be quieter for a while after officials announced Thursday that all F-35 stealth fighters have been grounded in the wake of a recent crash involving a Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort jet.

John Thomas, spokesman for engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, based in CT, said the company is supporting the Marine Corps investigation into the crash.

"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 Friedman, Michael, the spokesman for Lockheed.

Mr DellaVedova added that if "known good" tubes are already in place, then those planes will be returned to operational status.

"At this time, the cause of the mishap has not yet been determined", said Capt. Christopher Harrison, a U.S. Marine Corps spokesman.

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

"Safety is our paramount concern, therefore the United Kingdom has chose to pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry", a British Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The F-35 has attracted attention not only for its capabilities but also for its cost, after delays and overruns helped make the fighter jet program the most expensive in the Pentagon's history.

Inspections were expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The news was reported by multiple outlets, including Task & Purpose and The Marine Corps Times, and comes after a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II was destroyed in a crash September 28 on Little Barnwell Island, just a few miles from the air station. If the faulty part is found, it will be removed and replaced. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, raised questions on the troubles still facing the F-35 program and its readiness rate of about 65 percent. It promises to be the centrepiece of United States air power for decades to come. "So why is there such a disparity between military aircraft, that are brand new, and commercial aircraft?" But the problem has already been identified as faulty fuel tubes. John Pendleton, an official for the federal watchdog agency Government Accountability Office, said there hasn't been enough focus within the Air Force on sustaining the F-35, instead of focusing on production. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems.

Other nations that have signed contracts to join the F-35 program include the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway, according to the Pentagon.

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