US, worldwide partners temporarily suspend some F-35 flight operations

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The entire global fleet of US F-35 fighter jets has been grounded, the Pentagon said Thursday morning, pending a fleet-wide inspection of engines in the wake of an F-35B crash last month.

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) said on 11 October that the United States suspended flight operations.

A Marine Corps F-35 operating from the USS Essex amphibious assault ship recently struck a Taliban target in Afghanistan, the first successful US combat sortie for the jet.

Inspections are expected to be completed within the next two days, the statement said, and a defense official told CNN some aircraft have already been returned to flight status.

Proponents tout the F-35's radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information.

The announcement of the grounding comes after a United States Marine Corps F-35B from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the "Warlords", crashed in SC near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on September 28.

The ADF said the groundings triggered by the U.S. crash "will not affect the delivery of aircraft to Australia".

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", the Pentagon said in a statement.

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About half the F-35s are believed to have the faulty tube, and they include aircraft owned by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

In April, a Marine Corps F-35B out the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, was forced to make an emergency landing when the aircraft fuel light came on.

According to the Pentagon, the decision to temporarily suspend operations for the fleet results from initial data that investigators gathered in their probe of last month's crash.

The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact worldwide partners, such as Israel, that have the F-35.

In the September 28 crash in SC near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the pilot safely ejected from the aircraft, which belonged to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the "Warlords".

"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 defence ministry spokesman said.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has projected a total lifetime cost of $1 trillion for the program.

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.

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