The US Department of Defense has temporarily suspended flights from a series of high-flying F-35 fighter jets, the Marine Corps Times reported, citing the F-35 Joint Program Office.
“While the two additional fuel tubes have not failed, engineering data collected during the ongoing investigation established the requirement for a time-phased inspection based on engine flight hours,” the Joint Program Office said in an emailed statement. “The procedure to inspect and replace can be done by flightline maintenance without removing the engine.”
According to a source close to the program told the newspaper, only F-35B fighters from the US Marine Corps have flaws. As F-35B vertical landing and take-off fighters are subject to different stresses compared to other models, only Model B fighters, which have reached a certain number of flight hours, would be subject to inspection.
The US Defense Department’s press office declined to comment on how many fighters accurately need additional inspection. However, according to sources in the Marine Times , about twenty F-35Bs can be removed from missions soon.
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the F-35 air vehicle, referred questions to the JPO and to Pratt & Whitney.
“We’re continuing to work with Pratt and Whitney, the F-35 Joint Program Office, the U.S. Services and our international customers to minimize impact to the fleet,” the company said in a statement. “Pratt and Whitney builds the F135 engine and contracts directly with the F-35 Joint Program Office — and they can best address technical questions related to the engine.”
The Pentagon’s Lockheed Martin-run program to create the F-35 Lightning II proved to be the most expensive weaponry history, costing about $1.5 trillion. Even with all the money invested, the fighters were eventually deployed to the Armed Forces with a seven-year delay.
This is not the first time that F-35 models face problems. For example, The National Interest reported that F-35 was vulnerable to lightning due to particularities of its structure. The United States Marine Corps even ordered portable lightning rods to protect the F-35Bs installed at the American base in Japan.