New strike fighters grounded after crash
Australia’s new F-35 strike fighters have been grounded following investigations into a crash involving one of the fifth-generation aircraft being operated by the US Marine Corp last month.
The grounding was reportedly in response to concerns the aircraft may have a faulty tube that is part of the fuel supply system.
The Australian Defence Force confirmed yesterday it and other F-35 operators, including the US and Britain, had “paused” flights to enable inspections of the planes’ engines.
“A number of F-35 operators, including the US, UK and Australia, have paused the flying of their F-35 aircraft to allow the engines to be inspected,” an ADF spokesman said.
“Australian F-35 aircraft currently based in the US will return to flying operations once safety inspections are complete. Some international partners within the F-35 program are already commencing flying following conclusion of their inspections.”
The spokesman said the inspections would not affect the delivery of aircraft to Australia, the first of which is due to arrive in December and enter service in 2020.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that much of the global fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 combat jets was temporarily grounded to investigate engine problems following the plane crash in South Carolina on September 28.
Officials said the fleet of about 320 jets would undergo inspections over the next two days to check fuel tubes in engines that are made by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologie, according to the paper.
The decision affects more than 250 US-owned jets, as well as nearly 100 that belong to other nations including Britain.
About half the F-35s are believed to have the faulty tube, Associated Press reports.
The marines-operated F-35B crashed into an uninhabited marsh island near the Grays Hill community in South Carolina.
The pilot safely ejected before the crash.
During the initial investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. Until 2015, two companies manufactured the tubes, and the problem involves just one of them, AP reports. If the aircraft has those particular tubes, they will be replaced. Pratt & Whitney spokesman John Thomas said the company was supporting the investigation.
Australia is buying 72 of the F-35A conventional take-off variant of the aircraft at a cost of about $17 billion. Six of the aircraft have been delivered into Australian possession and are being used for pilot training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona.
‘Australian F-35 aircraft currently based in the US will return to flying operations once safety inspections are complete’ DEFENCE SPOKESMAN