Four British Royal Air Force F-35B flying in tandem. (Lockheed Martin)
The U.S. military's most sophisticated fighter aircraft fleet was temporarily suspended from operations beginning Thursday as the Defense Department worked to determine which of their platforms had a suspect part that could have caused the aircraft's first-ever crash in September.
The Pentagon’s F-35 joint program office announced Oct. 11 that flight operations would halt for all U.S. and international F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to conduct a fleet-wide inspection of an engine fuel tube.The grounding follows a Sept. 28 accident in which an F-35B crashed near Beaufort, South Carolina. The B variant is the Marine Corps vertical takeoff and landing version of the aircraft.
Inspections are expected to be completed within the next two days, according to a statement issued Thursday morning. If “suspect” fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If the tubes are deemed acceptable, those aircraft will return to flight status.
An investigation is ongoing to determine the circumstances of the F-35B accident in South Carolina, but the new inspection was driven from initial data, the joint program office said, adding, “The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available.”
Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Technologies that builds the F-35's F135 engine, is actively working with the JPO to address the issue, said Glen Roberts, spokesman for the company's military engine sector.
Read the full article on Defense Daily, a sister publication to Avionics.