The U.S. Defense Department has temporarily suspended flight operations of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-35 after its first crash prompted inspections of the fighter jet fleet. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fly different versions of the stealthy fighter.
The inspections should be complete within 24 to 48 hours, Task & Purpose reported, citing a Pentagon official.
A person familiar with Lockheed's delivery pipeline said the company was already flying and testing the jets slated for near-term delivery. There are 75 F-35s in the global fleet.
The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact worldwide partners, such as Israel, that have the F-35.
"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35".
The news was reported by multiple outlets, including Task & Purpose and The Marine Corps Times, and comes after a Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II was destroyed in a crash September 28 on Little Barnwell Island, just a few miles from the air station.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of a House Armed Services Committee subpanel, said Thursday that he received a briefing from the Marine Corps on the crash in Beaufort, S.C.
"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", according to the Joint Program Office statement.
The Italian Air Force has already completed its inspections and, as it did not find the faulty part, is back to normal flight operations, according to two sources.
A pilot sits in the cockpit of an F-35 fighter jet preparing for a training mission at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah.
To date, the USA military has purchased 245 F-35 jets from Lockheed Martin.
The Israeli Air Force, which said it also has grounded its version of the F-35 for "several days" of testing, suggested a more definitive finding has emerged in the continuing US probe.
During Wednesday's hearing, Sen.
An official report questioned earlier this year whether the F-35 was ready for combat after dozens of faults were found.
"I know it's a complex aircraft, only took nearly two decades to procure and develop which, that's a whole other topic for a whole other hearing", said Sullivan, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee subpanel on readiness and management support.
"And yet for the F-35 that's a new airplane coming online, coming out into the fleet ... in the mid-60s", he said.
Sullivan asked whether the F-35 could hit an 80 percent readiness mark within a year. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars. "And it's going to be hard to achieve those kinds of mission capability rates".