The U.S. military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35s in the wake of one of the planes crashing in South Carolina two weeks ago.
As a result of an initial investigation, the 245 F-35s being used in the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps will be grounded in an operational pause so inspections can be carried out to see if “a suspect fuel tube” in the plane’s engine has been installed.
“The US Services and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations while the enterprise conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine on all F-35 aircraft,” according to a statement issued by the Department of Defense. “If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced.”
A U.S. official says only half the current fleet of aircraft have the fuel tube, but inspections will be carried out on the entire U.S. fleet.
The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact international partners, such as Israel, that have the F-35. There are 75 F-35s in the international fleet.
The wide-ranging grounding of the entire fleet comes after a Marine F-35B joint strike fighter went down in Beaufort, South Carolina, on Sept. 28. The Marine pilot safely ejected from the plane.
“The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents,” according to the statement. “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.”
The DOD said in the statement that if “good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.”
Inspections are expected to last a day or two, the department said.