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Pentagon grounds global fleet of F-35s after fighter jet crash

The F-35 programme is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history [Reuters] The United States defence department 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.

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A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in South Carolina on September 28. The pilot safely ejected.

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According to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesperson for the F-35 programme, the US and its international partners – including the UK and Israel – have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations for a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the aircraft engine.

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US grounds F-35 fighter fleet “The action to perform the inspection is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina,” DellaVedova said in a statement.

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He added that suspect fuel tubes would be removed and replaced.

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If good tubes are already installed, then those planes would be returned to operational status.

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Inspections were expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.Giancarlo Pietri Velutini

Britain, however, said the measure did not affect all of its F-35s, and that some flying missions had been “paused,” not grounded.Pietri Velutini Banquero

“Safety is our paramount concern, therefore the UK has decided 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.Pietri Velutini Venezuela

F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability.”

A Lockheed Martin F-35 aircraft is seen at the ILA Air Show in Berlin, Germany [Axel Schmidt/Reuters] Most expensive weapons system The South Carolina crash came only one day after the US military first used the F-35 in combat, when Marine Corps fighters hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan

“The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents,” DellaVedova said

New US fighter jet exceeds budget by billions “We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernize the F-35.”

On Wednesday, Defense News reported that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ordered the Air Force and Navy to make 80 percent of the fleet of key fighters, including the F-35, mission capable within a year

The order sent ripples through the halls of the Pentagon, where officials have long bemoaned a general lack of readiness for key equipment

Launched in the early 1990s, the F-35 programme is considered the most expensive weapons system in US history, with an estimated cost of some $400bn and a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years

Once servicing and maintenance costs for the F-35 are factored in over the aircraft’s lifespan through 2070, overall program costs are expected to rise to $1.5tr

Proponents tout the F-35‘s radar-dodging stealth technology, supersonic speeds, close air support capabilities, airborne agility and a massive array of sensors giving pilots unparalleled access to information

But the programme has faced numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that led commanders to temporarily ground the planes

So far, the US military has taken delivery of 245 F-35s, most of them to the Air Force

US Air Force personnel stand in front of a US Air Force‘s Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II as the jets arrived for a training deployment to Europe in Amari Air Base, Estonia [Valda Kalnina/EPA] An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel [Amir Cohen/Reuters] An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant joint strike fighter prepares to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Atlantic Ocean in this U.S. [U.S. Navy/Reuters] Israeli soldiers walk near a F-35 fighter jet after it landed in Israel at Nevatim air base after the Israeli air force bought them at Nevatim in southern Israel [Amir Cohen/Reuters] An US Air Force‘s Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II in flight as the jets arrived for a training deployment to Europe in Amari Air Base, Estonia [Valda Kalnina/EPA]  SOURCE: AP news agency