US Grounds Global Fleet Of F-35 After South Carolina Crash

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption F-35 fighter jets prepare to land for first time on a UK carrier

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon grounded the global fleet of F-35 stealth fighters Thursday so that engineers could conduct urgent inspections following the first ever crash of the costliest plane in history.

The initial assessment is the faulty tube may be on older models of the aircraft, but all are being inspected.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced", according to the Joint Program Office statement. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, raised questions on the troubles still facing the F-35 program and its readiness rate of about 65 percent.

However, the inspections are looking at a certain kind of fuel tube that is estimated to be in about half the F-35 fleet, USA officials told The Washington Post. During the subsequent investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015.

But if the planes are "required for operational action, the F-35I aircraft are ready and prepared", a statement read.

The DOD said in the statement that if "good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status".

The inspection is "is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina" on September 28, according to the statement.

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"F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth are continuing and the program remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability", a British defense ministry spokesman said.

The military say that the inspection process is expected to take up to 48 hours. The US government's accountability office estimates all costs associated with the project will amount to one trillion dollars.

The Ministry of Defence in London said the United Kingdom had chose to "pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry". 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.

It marked the first crash of the US military's newest and most expensive aircraft, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported. Once these are checked or replaced the aircraft will be back in the air.

However there is no going back now.

In April, a Marine Corps F-35B out the Marine Corps air station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, was forced to make an emergency landing when the aircraft fuel light came on. There are more than 340 F-35s being used now by the United States and other countries.

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