All F-35 stealth fighters were grounded yesterday in air forces around the world after the Pentagon announced the discovery of faulty engine fuel tubes in US F-35s.
The US conducted an investigation after an F-35 crashed on 28 September in South Carolina near the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort. Israel, the UK and Australia have announced that they will ground their F-35 fleet. The Israeli Air Force currently has 12 stealth fighters and has agreed to purchase a total of 50, which are scheduled to be delivered in instalments by 2024. The Royal Air Force has 16 F-35s, but has agreed to buy 138 in total and has paid for 48 so far.
According to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 programme in the US Department of Defence, the inspections will be completed within 24 to 48 hours. Aircraft with “good fuel tubes already installed” will be returned to flight status.
The UK Ministry of Defence said: “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.”
The Israel Defence Forces also confirmed that Israel Air Force commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, has decided to take extra precautions and test all the planes, despite Israel not having the model that crashed in the US. “The test will take several days. After all checks are complete, the planes will return to full operation,” adding that the fighter jets are ready for operational action if required.
Israel received its first batch of F-35s from the US in December 2016. The aircraft were declared operational approximately a year later. In May, Norkin said: “The Israeli Air Force has twice carried out strikes with the F-35, on two different fronts. I think that we are the first to attack with an F-35 in the Middle East — I’m not sure about other areas.”
The F-35 is considered particularly significant as its offensive and stealth capabilities would be a key tool in overcoming the recently supplied Russian made S-300 to Syria.