The three US armed services and worldwide militaries flying the single-engine F-35 all made the decision Thursday to temporarily halt flights while investigators conduct a fleetwide inspection for a faulty part-a fuel tube within the engine-according to Joe Dellavedova, a spokesman for the F-35 Joint Program Office.
Inspections are to be carried out on faulty fuel tubes. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, raised questions on the troubles still facing the F-35 program and its readiness rate of about 65 percent.
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.
The programme is expected to last several decades and global sales are projected to be 3,000. The program is estimated to have a lifetime cost of over $1.5 trillion.
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.
"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", the Pentagon said in a statement.
The Italian Air Force has already completed its inspections and, as it did not find the faulty part, is back to normal flight operations, according to two sources.
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The aircraft, which uses stealth technology to reduce its visibility to radar, comes in three variants.
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 on 28 September. The pilot ejected safely.
The Ministry of Defence in London said the United Kingdom had made a decision to "pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry".
Inspections are expected to be completed within the next two days, the statement said, and a defense official told CNN some aircraft have already been returned to flight status.
The F-35 programme has been hit by numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that also led to commanders temporarily grounding the aircraft.
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. If the aircraft has those, they will be replaced. The U.S. Marine Corps, Air Force, and Navy have hundreds of F-35s, both flying in the continental United States and deployed overseas, while the United Kingdom, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Australia, Norway, Israel, Japan, and South Korea have smaller fleets.