All F-35s tem­po­rar­ily grounded

Fighter jet en­gines to be ex­am­ined

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES GILBERT @YSJAMESGILBERT

The U.S. mil­i­tary has tem­po­rar­ily grounded all of its F-35 fighter jets around the world as a pre­cau­tion for in­spec­tion of a po­ten­tially faulty en­gine part in the wake of last month’s crash of one of the air­craft in South Carolina, the Pen­tagon an­nounced Thurs­day.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment by the F-35 Joint Pro­gram Of­fice, the ground­ing is in re­sponse to in­for­ma­tion from the on­go­ing in­spec­tion of a Ma­rine Corps’ F-35B Light­ning II that crashed dur­ing a train­ing flight near Beau­fort, S.C., on Sept. 28. The pilot was able to eject safely, but the air­craft was com­pletely de­stroyed.

The crash hap­pened just a day af­ter F-35Bs fighter jets from Ma­rine Corps Air Sta­tion Yuma’s Ma­rine Fighter At­tack Squadron 211 took off from the am­phibi­ous war­ship USS Es­sex to con­duct an air strike on a fixed Tal­iban tar­get in Afghanistan in sup­port of ground clear­ance op­er­a­tions as part of Op­er­a­tion Free­dom’s Sen­tinel. The mis­sion was deemed a suc­cess.

Ma­rine Fighter At­tack Squadron 211 — known as the Wake Is­land Avengers — is cur­rently de­ployed with the 13th Ma­rine Ex­pe­di­tionary Unit in the U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand (CENTCOM) area of op­er­a­tions in sup­port of naval op­er­a­tions to en­sure mar­itime sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in the Cen­tral Re­gion.

In its state­ment, the Joint Pro­gram Of­fice ex­plained that ini­tial data from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­di­cates a fuel

tube within the en­gine on all F-35 air­craft may have been faulty. In re­sponse the U.S. and its in­ter­na­tional part­ners — in­clud­ing Bri­tain and Is­rael — have tem­po­rar­ily sus­pended F-35 flight op­er­a­tions for a fleetwide in­spec­tion.

“If sus­pect fuel tubes are in­stalled, the part will be re­moved and re­placed,” ac­cord­ing to the Joint Pro­gram Of­fice state­ment. “If known good fuel tubes are al­ready in­stalled, then those air­craft will be re­turned to flight sta­tus.”

The ini­tial as­sess­ment is the faulty tube may only be on older mod­els of the air­craft, but all are be­ing in­spected.

In­spec­tions are ex­pected to be com­pleted within the next two days, the state­ment said. Some air­craft, it has been con­firmed, have al­ready been re­turned to flight sta­tus.

Maj. Joe Pat­ter­son, a spokesper­son for the 3rd Ma­rine Air­craft Wing, which is in com­mand of the squadrons sta­tioned at MCAS-Yuma, ex­plained that main­tain­ers, as a pre­cau­tion, are in the process of in­spect­ing every F-35 in the Ma­rine Corps to de­ter­mine, which, if any have the sus­pect fuel tubes in­stalled.

Cur­rently, the U.S. mil­i­tary has 245 F-35 Light­ning IIs in its fleet, with the Air Force hav­ing 156, the Ma­rine Corps with 61 and the Navy 28, ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided by the Joint Pro­gram Of­fice.

The en­tire F-35 fleet was grounded for the first time in July 2014, af­ter a June 23 en­gine fire on the run­way at Eglin Air Force Base. Be­fore that, the fleet was grounded be­cause of prob­lems with Pratt &Whit­ney’s F135 tur­bine blades.

In June 2017, the U.S. Ma­rine Corps grounded an F-35 squadron at MCAS Yuma due to a soft­ware prob­lem with the air­craft’s Au­to­nomic Lo­gis­tics In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem, or ALIS, which is the off-board com­puter pro­gram de­signed to mon­i­tor the jet’s sys­tems, op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance needs. The sys­tem is the IT back­bone of the F-35.

Re­pairs were made and the squadron, which had 14 F-35s, was cleared to re­sume flight op­er­a­tions less than 48 hours later. There was no prob­lem with the plane it­self; the prob­lem was a soft­ware glitch.

Also, in April, a Ma­rine Corps F-35B out of the Ma­rine Corps Air Sta­tion at Cherry Point, N.C., was forced to make an emer­gency land­ing when the air­craft fuel light came on.

Buy this photo at Yu­maSun.com PHOTO BY RANDY HOEFT/YUMA SUN

AN F-35 “LIGHT­NING” WITH U.S. MA­RINE CORPS VMFA-122, “The Fly­ing Leath­er­necks,” makes an ap­proach for a re­cent land­ing at Ma­rine Corps Air Sta­tion Yuma.

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