The U.S. Defense Department has temporarily suspended flight operations of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 after its first crash prompted inspections of the fighter jet fleet. The suspension by the Pentagon is to allow a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft. Because the problem is related to a fleetwide engine issue, rather than just in the F-35B models, it appears unlikely that the problem is unrelated to the short-takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the Marine’s design. The F-35B is the short takeoff, vertical landing variant of the aircraft, which allows the pilot to hover and land vertically like a helicopter — a necessity for the Marines. The issue as described by the JPO indicates the issue is believed to come from a subcontractor who supplied the fuel tubes for engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
The inspection is “is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina” on Sept. 28, according to the statement. The F-35B is the Marine Corps version of the aircraft. The grounding is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on 28 September. The aircraft mishap board is continuing its work and the U.S. Marine Corps will provide additional information when it becomes available. The F-35B belonged to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the “Warlords.”
While the F-35′s U.S-based Joint Program Office had indicated that the grounding included aircraft purchased by foreign militaries, the British military signaled Monday that its entire fleet is not grounded. The Marine Corps declared the F-35B operational in 2015, becoming the first service to integrate the joint strike fighter into its fleet. The Air Force followed by declaring initial operational capability for the F-35A conventional variant in 2016, while the Navy plans to declare initial operational capability for the F-35C carrier variant in February 2019.Although the Marine Corps is the first U.S. service to fly its joint strike fighters in combat, the aircraft has been used by the Israeli air force to strike targets. In May, Israel Defense Forces officials confirmed that the country’s F-35 “Adir” fighters had seen combat in two airstrikes somewhere in the Middle East.
Currently, the U.S. military has purchased 245 aircraft from Lockheed Martin. The Air Force has 156, the Marine Corps has 61 and the Navy has 28.
The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps plan to buy a total of 2,456 F-35s, at an estimated cost of $325 billion. In total, the aircraft program is projected to cost about $1 trillion to develop, produce, field and sustain over its lifetime, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office has projected a total lifetime cost of $1 trillion for the program. F-35s have already been delivered to the United Kingdom, Italy, Israel, Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Norway.