LONDON: The Pentagon on Thursday grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters to conduct engine inspections, following the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history.
A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in South Carolina on September 28.
According to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, the US and its international partners temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations for a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft.
“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,” DellaVedova said in a statement.
He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced. If good tubes are already installed, then those planes will be returned to operational status.
Inspections were expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours.
According to Pentagon figures, 320 F-35s have been delivered globally, mainly to the US but also Israel and Britain, as well as other partner countries.
Britain said the Pentagon measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been “paused,” not grounded. “F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability,” a British defense ministry spokesman said.