Pentagon orders temporary pause in F-35 flights after crash

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The crash in SC involved an F-35B, which is able to land vertically and costs around $100m (£75m).

The U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy have hundreds of F-35s, both flying in the continental United States and deployed overseas, while the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Israel, Japan, and South Korea have smaller fleets. During the subsequent investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015.

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

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 program is considered the most expensive weapons system in USA history, with an estimated cost of some $400 billion and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

Kensley Crosby  AP FILESmoke bellows from a military jet that crashed Friday Sept. 28 2018 in Beaufort S.C
Kensley Crosby AP FILESmoke bellows from a military jet that crashed Friday Sept. 28 2018 in Beaufort S.C

The entire fleet of U.S. F-35s have been grounded worldwide, according to a Pentagon statement released on Thursday.

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

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the Pentagon's Joint Program Office, which oversees the F-35, said in a statement.

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

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Less than two weeks ago, two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs flew the first American combat missions for the new joint strike fighter.

A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in SC 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 safely ejected before the crash. Mat Winter, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, told reporters back in March.

"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", DellaVedova said.

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Military officials said the inspections ordered this week are to help prevent any future incidents.

According to data for fiscal year 2017, the most recent available, the Air Force's F-35A models had around a 55 percent readiness rate, well below that target.

Now the USA military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin.

The three US armed services and worldwide militaries flying the single-engine F-35 all made the decision Thursday to temporarily halt flights while investigators conduct a fleetwide inspection for a faulty part-a fuel tube within the engine-according to Joe Dellavedova, a spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office. F-35s have already been delivered to the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Norway.

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