The U.S. military has grounded its fleet of F-35s following a recent crash in SC to inspect the fighter jets' engine fuel tubes, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
Inspections are to be carried out on faulty fuel tubes.
Sullivan asked whether the F-35 could hit an 80 percent readiness mark within a year.
The F-35 has attracted attention not only for its capabilities but also for its cost, after delays and overruns helped make the fighter jet program the most expensive in the Pentagon's history.
The programme is expected to last several decades and global sales are projected to be 3,000.
It cost an estimated $400bn and had a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.
"The U.S. Services and worldwide 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", the F-35 Joint Program Office announced in a statement Thursday morning.
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According to the Marine Corps Times, "investigators. suspect there is a widespread problem with the advanced fighter's fuel tubes". If it is found that good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.
The inspections should be complete within 24 to 48 hours, Task & Purpose reported, citing a Pentagon official.
The aircraft, which uses stealth technology to reduce its visibility to radar, comes in three variants. About half the F-35s are believed to have the faulty tube, and they include aircraft owned by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Luckily, the pilot of the crashed aircraft ejected and landed safely. The roughly $100 million F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin; Pratt & Whitney supplies the engine.
"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.
While the F-35's U.S-based Joint Program Office had indicated that the grounding included aircraft purchased by foreign militaries, the British military signaled Monday that its entire fleet is not grounded. Depending on the availability of parts, the fuel tube can be replaced quickly. Mat Winter, director of the F-35 Joint Program Office, told reporters back in March.
US airmen walk next to a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, as it is moved, on the eve of the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 18, 2017.
Because the problem is related to a fleetwide engine issue, rather than just in the F-35B models, it appears unlikely that the problem is unrelated to the short-takeoff and vertical-landing capabilities of the Marine's design.