Entire F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Grounded; Air Force Finds Major Fault in Aircraft That Risks Pilots' Lives

The entire fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters has been grounded, according to a new stand-down order by the Air Force. A major fault is found in the aircraft which risks pilots' lives, according to a report.

The urgent order came as some ejection seats are defective and need replacement, according to Air Combat Command. The order came out of an "abundance of caution" and units have been directed to expedite the inspection process.

F-35 warplane costing UK government millions due to tech failure
Representative image

Air Combat Command To Expedite The Inspection Process

Air Combat Command spokeswoman Alexi Worley confirmed the temporary standdown in an email to Breaking Defense. Worley underlined that ACC's F-35s do have Martin-Baker ejection seats, and on July 19, ACC began a Time Compliance Technical Directive to inspect all of the cartridges on the ejection seat within 90 days.

"Out of an abundance of caution, ACC units will execute a stand-down on July 29 to expedite the inspection process. Based on data gathered from those inspections, ACC will make a determination to resume operations," she told Breaking Defense.

Some Cartridge-Actuated Devices Could Be Defective

The fault is with cartridge-actuated devices that propel the seat out of the aircraft at the time of emergency ejection. The manufacturer itself has identified the fault and stated that the part is defective and needs replacement.

Experts say that CADs are key for the emergency ejection process and faulty CAD will not be able to allow a safe ejection. Although, they have suggested that planes are flyable and there's no other issue with the plane. But it's significant to focus that without a safe emergency ejection process, faulty CADs risk the lives of pilots.

It came a few days after nearly 300 trainer aircraft were grounded. Air Force's Air Education and Training Command's order of grounding that plane was caused by the supply issue in CADs. The Navy has also separately grounded unspecified numbers of its aircraft.

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This article was first published on July 29, 2022