WASHINGTON – The US Department of Defense announced on Thursday the suspension of all operations with its F-35 fighter jets for safety reasons in the wake of an F-35 crash in South Carolina last month.
There are nearly 350 F-35s in service with the militaries of the US and other nations including Israel and the United Kingdom.
“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,” Joe DellaVedova, spokesman for the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office, said in a statement.
The fuel tubes will be removed and replaced if problems are detected.
“If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status,” DellaVedova said.
The spokesman acknowledged that the decision to ground the fleet was due to the F-35B crash that took place on Sept. 28, just one day after the aircraft began to be used in combat in Afghanistan.
This represents another setback for the F-35B, the most advanced – and costliest – warplane in history.
The F-35 program has received numerous criticisms due to its high price tag and the constant delays during its development phase.
DellaVedova refrained from discussing the controversial F-35 program, saying simply that the Pentagon would “take every measure to ensure safe operations” while it sustains and modernizes the F-35s.
“The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents,” the spokesman said.