The Pentagon along with the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) grounded some of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in the aftermath of a Dec. 15 Texas incident in which a hovering fighter crashed and the pilot ejected.
His condition is unknown.
In the video which quickly went viral, the pilot can be seen hovering just above the ground. The plane descends, bounces off the ground, and leans forward. After the nose and right wing contact with the ground the aircraft begins to spin, which was when the pilot ejected.
In a Tuesday statement, the office confirmed that some of the higher-risk fighters will not be able to fly until at least January. It did not specify how many of the planes are now grounded or how the specific aircraft was determined to be at a higher risk.
It said the fighter planes “which have been evaluated to be of higher risk” will cease operations as the investigation continues into the accident. The release to Defense News added that the planes are identified and procedures are being “developed for their return to flight.”
There are reports that only jets with under 40 hours in the air are affected by the grounding. The JPO declared that “the safety of flight crews is (its) primary concern,” and the hope is that the directive may be changed by mid-January.
BREAKING: The F-35 Joint Program Office has grounded a small number of newer F-35 fighters, in response to the dramatic Dec. 15 F-35B crash and ejection in Fort Worth. New on @defense_news. https://t.co/fCSIb48cuR pic.twitter.com/Tpel13qEOv
— Stephen Losey (@StephenLosey) December 27, 2022
An anonymous source told Defense News that JPO believed there was a failure with a “tube used to transfer high-pressure fuel in the fighter’s F-35 engine.”
It was July when the Air Force grounded the entire F-35 fleet over problems with ejection seat components. The Martin-Baker seats were inspected to ensure the cartridges functioned properly.
Lockheed-Martin is the manufacturer of most of the F-35s at its Fort Worth facility. The specific aircraft that crashed earlier this month had not yet been transferred to the government.
As the crash video showed, the pilot was conducting quality checks not far off the ground when the accident occurred. The new F-35s are single-seat and single-engine aircraft that feature all-weather stealth technology. They were developed to carry out strike and air-superiority missions.