WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Friday suspended the flights of all F-35 fighter planes after a routine inspection revealed a crack on a turbine blade in the jet engine of an F-35 test aircraft in California. The Israeli Air Force is among the few air forces in the world to be operating the fighter plane, starting 2015.
The F-35 program office said it was too early to know the fleet-wide impact of the engine issue, but it was suspending all flights until an investigation into the issue was completed.
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The Pentagon said it was working closely with Pratt & Whitney, the United Technologies Corp unit which builds the engine for the fighter, and Lockheed Martin Corp, the prime contractor for the radar-evading warplane, to ensure the integrity of the engine and return the F-35 fleet to flight as soon as possible.
F-35 fighter plane (Photo: AFP)
Over the last decade, the F-35 has seen a series of malfunctions, last of which occurred last month, leading to discontinuing US Marines activity for a few weeks due to the grounding of its 25 F-35 planes.
In October 2010, Israel signed an agreement to purchase F-35 fighters. The transaction was estimated to cost Israel NIS 2.75 billion. The deal stipulated that from 2015 to 2017, Israel is to get a squadron of F-35s, costing NIS 96 billion a plane.
Reuters contributed to this report
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