Have the UK’s F-35s Been Grounded?
Flying Supended While F-35Bs Inspected
The UK’s new F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jets have been in the hangar for inspection following initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B incident in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on 28 September. The MOD responded to what it called inaccurate reports saying that the F-35Bs had been “grounded” by pointing out that “only some flying has been paused.”
The US temporarily suspended F-35B flights while inspection of a fuel tube within the aircraft engine are undertaken. If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.
Further inspections on remaining UK F-35s will take place today, Friday, but the majority of the UK’s aircraft have already been assessed and cleared. This includes jets in both the UK and the US.
F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth continue. RAF Marham-based 617 Squadron had been scheduled for ground training this week, so the development has had no impact on their plans.
F-35B Programme Remains on Schedule
According to the MOD, the F-35 programme remains on schedule to provide Her Majesty’s Armed Forces with a game-changing capability.
An MOD spokesperson said:
Safety is our paramount concern, therefore the UK has decided to pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry. F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are continuing and the programme remains on schedule to provide our Armed Forces with a game-changing capability. We will continue to review the situation as further information becomes available.
Image: a Royal Air Force F-35 Lightning from 617 Sqn preparing to take off from RAF Marham (a Tornado is pictured taking off in the background) to join the RAF100 centenary flypast over Buckingham Palace in London (Crown Copyright, 2018).