A worldwide grounding of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a crash in South Carolina last month was implemented, although it was not clear if the Israeli air force was going along with the decision.
The cause of concern, among other problems, is a fuel tube within the engine of the F-35 aircraft. Over the next 24 to 48 hours, inspections are slated for the faulty tubes, after which a decision will be made about returning the world’s most expensive plane to operation.
Meanwhile, the United States and its international partners — including Britain and Israel — have temporarily suspended F-35 flight, according to Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program in the U.S. Department of Defense.
However, Israel tweeted on Thursday that “Contrary to reports, all F-35 jets have not been grounded. We have paused some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry. Flight trials continue and the program remains on schedule.”
Israel has 12 F-35s, and plans to purchase a total of 50, delivery to be completed on installment by 2024.
Israel was the first to use the advanced craft in combat, earlier this year. On May 22, IAF commander Amikam Norkin disclosed that the F-35 was used in airstrikes at least twice.
“The Israeli Air Force has twice carried out strikes with the F-35, on two different fronts,” Norkin told an international conference of air force chiefs in Israel.
“I think that we are the first to attack with an F-35 in the Middle East — I’m not sure about other areas,” he said.
A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in the crash, during training in South Carolina on September 28. The pilot safely ejected.