Pentagon temporarily grounds Fort Worth-made F-35s after crash prompts inspections

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On Wednesday, Defense News reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ordered the Air Force and Navy to make 80 percent of the fleet of key fighters, including the F-35, mission capable within a year. The Marine pilot was able to eject before the crash and did not suffer any serious injuries.

All three services have stopped flying the F-35 while fuel tubes in the aircraft are inspected and replaced if necessary. If the faulty part is found, it will be removed and replaced.

The F-35 program office said the inspections should be completed in one or two days.

A day before the crash in SC, another Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II was used in its first USA combat mission to strike a Taliban target in Afghanistan.

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said: "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".

"During this mission the F-35B conducted an air strike in support of ground clearance operations, and the strike was deemed successful by the ground force commander", said a Marine Corps statement confirming the strike. "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 F-35 joint strike fighter is the most expensive program in the Pentagon's history.

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The Israeli warplanes, purchased from the USA, are a different model than the American one that crashed.

On the same day of the F-35's American combat debut, two F-35s took off from and landed on a British aircraft carrier for the first time. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes would be returned to operational status.

The US military has temporarily grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a crash in SC last month.

"The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents". This allows the plane to hover and land vertically like a helicopter and is a critical requirement for the Marine Corps, which often operates from amphibious ships with smaller decks than the Navy's aircraft carriers. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion. It represents a step-change in capability but the F-35's complexity has inevitably thrown up problems.

A spokesman for the F-35s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said Thursday morning that industry partners were working with the F-35's Joint Program Office to investigate the problems.

The plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin but including parts made in several other countries, has been sold to a number of nations, including the UK, Japan, Italy, Turkey and South Korea.