More than 80 percent of F-35s cleared for flight after fuel tube problem

More than 80 percent of F-35s cleared for flight after fuel tube problem

The majority of the Pentagon’s F-35 joint strike fighters are ready to fly again after the entire fleet was grounded last week to look into a fuel tube issue. 

“After completing inspections, more than 80 percent of operational F-35s have been cleared and returned to flight operations,” the F-35 joint program office said in a statement Monday.

The office adds that all U.S. military services and international partners have resumed flying with the cleared fifth-generation fighter jets.

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The Pentagon last week grounded the Lockheed Martin-made aircraft to examine the fuel tubes within the engines, made separately by Pratt & Whitney. The fuel tubes, found in all F-35 variants, were suspected to be the cause of an F-35B crash on Sept. 28. near the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C.

The program office said it is working closely with the military services “to prioritize fuel tube replacements using the current spares inventory,” and with Pratt & Whitney to rapidly procure more parts “to minimize the overall repair timeline for the remaining jets.”

The current inventory of spare fuel tubes “will restore about half of the impacted jets to flight operations, and the remaining aircraft are expected to be cleared for flight over the coming weeks.”

The statement adds that the issue is not expected to impact F-35 deliveries and the program remains on track to meet its target of 91 aircraft delivered to military services and foreign customers this year.

The F-35 program is the most expensive weapons program in history and has received criticism for having had numerous issues including cost overruns and various technical problems.

“More than 1500 suppliers are on the F-35 program and this is an isolated incident which is quickly being addressed and fixed,” the program office said. 

“Safety is our primary goal, and we will continue to take every measure to ensure safe operations while we execute our mission.”