The Pentagon grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters on Thursday, as a result of the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history. The F-35B is the Marine Corps version of the aircraft. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, raised questions on the troubles still facing the F-35 program and its readiness rate of about 65 percent.
The stand down affects more than 200 jets while an "inspection of a fuel tube" in F-35 engines takes place, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status".
"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced".
The inspection was prompted by initial data from the investigation into the crash of a Marine Corps F-35B from a training squadron at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in SC.
The decision involves a potentially bad fuel tube and affects more than 250 USA -owned jets, as well as almost 100 that belong to other nations including Britain.
In the September 28 crash in SC near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, the pilot safely ejected from the aircraft, which belonged to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the "Warlords". The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars.
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He said inspections were expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Other nations that have signed contracts to join the F-35 program include the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway, according to the Pentagon.
The temporary suspension of flight operations will also impact worldwide partners, such as Israel, that have the F-35. "But it does seem to me kind of ludicrous that we get new aircraft off the production line and within a month they are at 65 percent readiness".
The issue as described by the JPO indicates the issue is believed to come from a subcontractor who supplied the fuel tubes for engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.
A spokesman for the F-35s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, said Thursday morning that industry partners were working with the F-35's Joint Program Office to investigate the problems.
However there is no going back now.
"Safety is our paramount concern, therefore the United Kingdom has chose to pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry", a British Defense Ministry spokesman said. It promises to be the centrepiece of U.S. air power for decades to come.