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Pentagon orders fix for all F-35s globally

The latest and most advanced US fighter jet has been recalled to resolve an engine vibration problem

The military aircraft billed as America’s latest and greatest fighter jet, the F-35, has been recalled globally to fix an engine problem that led to the grounding of some planes and the halting of new deliveries.

The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) ordered the fix earlier this week, calling for all of the jets to be retrofitted within 90 days. The order applies to all of the nearly 900 F-35s that defense contractor Lockheed Martin has delivered worldwide, including those that have been grounded since a December 15 crash at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas.

An investigation found that engine vibration led to the crash, in which a hovering F-35 that was landing vertically suddenly bounced upward before lurching forward and skidding around on its nose and right wing. That incident involved the F-35B Lightning II variant of the fighter jet, which is used by the US Marine Corps.

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An F-35 Lightning II is displayed at the ILA Berlin air show last June in Schoenefeld, Germany.
US military grounds some of its top fighter jets – media

Lockheed responded by suspending acceptance flights for new F-35s, which are required before the aircraft can be delivered to customers. The Pentagon and the maker of the F-35’s propulsion system, Pratt & Whitney, stopped engine deliveries later in December.

Investigators reportedly traced the problem to engine vibration, which the JPO said occurred rarely and was thought to be an issue in recently built F-35s. A Pratt & Whitney executive told reporters earlier this week that engineers had developed an “immediate resolution” for the problem and that “some jets” would need to be retrofitted, Breaking Defense reported.

However, the JPO order applies to all F-35s, including those supplied to foreign militaries. The US has sold F-35s to such countries as Israel, Japan and the UK.

Some US lawmakers have estimated that it will cost $1.3 trillion to sustain the nation’s F-35 fleet, partly because of poor reliability. According to one estimate, only 30% of the jets, on average, are capable of performing all of their assigned tasks at any point in time. US Representative Adam Smith, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, has called the F-35 program a “rathole.”

READ MORE: US government issues warning about warplanes

The F-35 is far from alone in its troubles. Only four of the 49 types of US military aircraft were reliable enough to meet their “mission capable goals” in most of the years between 2011 and 2021, according to a government report issued in November.

March 04, 2023 at 01:14AM

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