Pentagon Orders Entire F-35 Fleet Grounded

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Britain said the Pentagon measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been "paused", not grounded.

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said: "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".

The planes are created to be the next generation of fighter jets, capable of carrying bombs and missiles but also rigged up with cyber capabilities - seen as a critical function for 21st century battlefields.

On September 28, a Marine Corps F-35 crashed in SC. "We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35 for the warfighter and our defense partners". "If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status".

But the MOD said F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, were continuing and the programme remained on schedule to provide United Kingdom armed forces with "a game-changing capability".

He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced.

The grounding news also comes two days after Defense News reported that Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the military services to get readiness rates on four planes, including the F-35, up above 80 percent by next September. The Israeli warplanes, purchased from the US, are a different model than the American one that crashed. In May, Israel announced it had conducted the first combat missions ever using the F-35 but offered few details.

Of the 280 operational F-35s purchased to date by the USA and global partners, only about half can fly, Vice Adm. The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

All variants of the jet, including the Air Force "A" version and Navy "C" version, are included, according to Lee Hudson of Aviation Week.

It cost an estimated $400bn and had a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

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

However, the inspections are looking at a certain kind of fuel tube that is estimated to be in about half the F-35 fleet, USA officials told The Washington Post.

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. Depending on the availability of parts, the fuel tube can be replaced quickly.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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