Air Force grounds troubled stealth fighters

The Air Force has reportedly halted all flights of its stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after a fire erupted on one of the jets earlier this week.

The often-troubled fighter program is several years behind schedule and has ended up costing billions more than planned.

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The latest incident occurred on Monday at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, as a fighter plane was preparing to take off. Its training mission was aborted when flames sprouted in the rear of the aircraft. The pilot escaped unharmed.

"As a precautionary measure, the Air Force has decided to temporarily suspend all F-35A operations until it is determined that flights can resume safely," Air Force spokeswoman Maj. Natasha Waggoner told Reuters.

Investigators are still looking into the cause of the fire.

Unlike the Air Force, the Navy and Marine Corps have not issued a blanket suspension of test flights for their F-35 variants.

The Air Force F-35 configuration costs roughly $98 million per plane, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. The Marine Corps version costs $104 million each and the Navy variant has a $116 million price tag.