The Pentagon temporarily grounded the United States’ F-35 fleet on Thursday after the discovery of defective fuel tubes in an F-35 engine. The findings come from the initial investigation into the crash of an F-35B in late September. Israel and the UK have also paused F-35 flights as a result.
“The U.S. 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,” said the F-35 Joint Program Office in a statement. “If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.” According to the statement, the inspections are expected to be completed in the next 24 to 48 hours.
The accident that revealed the potential problem took place near Beaufort, South Carolina, on Sept. 28. The pilot was able to safely eject, but the aircraft was destroyed. The accident was the first operational loss of an F-35 and occurred just a day after the model’s first-ever combat mission. The crash investigation is ongoing.