The Defense Department and international partners have temporarily suspended F-35 flight operations to conduct a fleet-wide inspection of fuel tubes within the engine of the aircraft, according to a Oct. 11 statement from the F-35 Joint Program Office.
The inspections will take place "within the next 24 to 48 hours," according to the statement
The operational pause comes days after an F-35B crashed. "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," according to the statement.
"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced," according to the statement. "If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status."
F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Friedman told Inside Defense in a written statement the company is working with the JPO and Pratt & Whitney, which provides the F-35's engine, "to support the resolution of this issue and limit disruption to the fleet."
Several hours after the JPO issued its statement, a Twitter account for Lockheed Martin stated: "We’ve completed inspections and acceptance flights are resuming at the Lockheed Martin Fort Worth facility."
A spokesman for Pratt & Whitney deferred questions to DOD.