US military grounds some of its best fighter jets – media – RT World News

An undisclosed number of F-35s have reportedly been taken out of service due to concerns raised by a recent crash

US F-35 fighter jets have reportedly come under renewed scrutiny after a crash earlier this month at a base in Texas raised safety concerns over the plane, prompting the grounding of some aircraft for investigation.

Some versions of the F-35 have been shelved for special inspections under an order issued earlier this week, the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) told The Hill news outlet Thursday. The JPO did not disclose the number of aircraft grounded or the specific issues being investigated.

The order recommended restrictions on « a small number of aircraft, which have been assessed as higher risk, are in flight operations and until procedures can be developed for their return to flight », said an unidentified JPO official. The JPO works with U.S. military branches that employ the F-35, as well as foreign buyers of the aircraft, “to ensure that the identified risks are understood.

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The decision follows a Dec. 15 crash involving an F-35B Lightning II, the US Marine Corps’ new fighter jet variant, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. The hovering aircraft was landing vertically when it appeared to bounce upwards before falling forward and skidding onto its nose and right wing. The pilot ejected as the aircraft landed on its landing gear in a horizontal position.

Most F-35s are built by Lockheed Martin at a factory in Fort Worth. The F-35B variant is still subject to quality checks before being officially handed over to the Marine Corps.

The crash may have stemmed from the failure of a tube used to transfer high-pressure fuel into the F-35’s engine, Defense News reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the program. The JPO revised its risk assessments for the aircraft, which led to wider groundings in the fleet. Jets with less than 40 flight hours on their records are affected, the source said.

Some U.S. lawmakers have criticized the F-35 program, saying it would cost $1.3 trillion to maintain the fighter jets, in part because of their poor reliability. According to US Representative John Garamendi, a Democrat from California, only 30% of jets are capable of performing all assigned tasks at any one time. Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington, called the program a « rat hole. »

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