The US Air Force stated on Friday that it had grounded nearly a dozen of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, a little over a month after they were declared ready for combat.
The decision affecting the most costly weapons system ever constructed was because of the discovery of flaking and disintegrating insulation in avionics cooling lines within the fuel tanks, the Air Force said, describing the action as a momentary pause in flight operations.
The defective cooling lines affected 57 aircraft in total, the statement said. Over a dozen of those planes had been grounded with the rest still on the manufacturing line and will be repaired there.
Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer, has delivered 108 F-35As. The Air Force intends to purchase 1,763 of the jets.
Of the 15 grounded aircraft already in the field, 10 had been declared combat ready. One was used for testing, and the final four were for training, and two of those four belonged to the Royal Norwegian Air Force.
While nearing completion, the F-35 is still being developed, and challenges are to be expected, the Air Force said.
The Air Force and Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program representatives told CNN that the faulty cooling lines were not present in all the aircraft. They said the use of the faulty part was restricted to one sub-contractor that did not work on all the planes.
A spokesperson assured CNN that safety is always the company’s top priority and that Lockheed Martin is dedicated to resolving this issue as fast as possible to return the planes to flying status.
The F-35 jet has been portrayed as the most costly weapons system in history with a program cost calculated to be $400 billion, CNN Politics reported.
The F-35A is the Air Force’s type of the jet, the US Marines and Navy will have their own F-35 models. Neither the Marines nor Navy’s aircraft was affected.
Upon the Air Force F-35’s advisement of initial operational capability standing in August, Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Combat Command commander, said: The F-35A will be the dominant aircraft in our catalogue because it can go where our past aircraft cannot and give the requirements our commanders need on today’s battlefield.
The grounding of the planes was initially reported by Bloomberg News.