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US, international partners temporarily suspend some F-35 flight operations

11 October 2018
The US and its international F-35 partners temporarily suspended some, but not all, F-35 flight operations on 11 October. Source: US Air Force

Key Points

  • The US and its international F-35 partners temporarily suspended some flight operations on 11 October
  • Inspectors searched for faulty fuel tubes

The United States and its international Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) partners on 11 October temporarily suspended some flight operations to conduct a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube in the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine found on all F-35 aircraft.

The F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) said on 11 October that the US suspended flight operations. The JPO said that if the suspect fuel tubes are installed, they will be removed and replaced. If known properly functioning fuel tubes are already installed, those aircraft would be returned to flight status. Inspections were expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.

The United Kingdom, an F-35 partner, said it was pausing some, but not all, flight operations. Wing Commander Martin Tinworth of the Ministry of Defence said on 11 October that F-35 flight trials from the HMS Queen Elizabeth were continuing and the programme remained on schedule. He added that there is no immediate risk to successful completion of first-of-class flight trials on Queen Elizabeth .

Cmdr Tinworth, late on 11 October, declined to say how many UK flights resumed and how many remained grounded. A defence official told Jane’s on 11 October that Norway had resumed all fight operations.

An F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant belonging to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 (VMFAT-501) crashed on 28 September near Beaufort, South Carolina, destroying the aircraft. It was the first time an F-35 has crashed. The JPO said the Aircraft Mishap Board is continuing its investigation and the US Marine Corps (USMC), which operates the F-35B, will provide additional information when it becomes available.

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