Israel Grounds Troubled F-35 Jets Over Faulty Ejector Seats
At least 50 F-35 fighter jets have been purchased by Israel from US defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Some 33 aircraft have already been delivered, and the rest will follow through 2024 in batches of two and three.
A day after reports that the US found an issue with the stealth jets' ejector seats, the Israel Air Force halted its cutting-edge F-35 fighters for training flights on Saturday.
According to an IDF news release, after doing an evaluation on the situation on Saturday night, Air Force commander Tomer Bar made the decision to have all 33 of the aircraft inspected over the next days.
Bar "emphasized that the examinations must be done in a strict and thorough manner in order to return the fleet to full competence while maintaining a high safety standard," per a translation of the statement.
"The Israeli Air Force is part of a global array of countries that operate this type of aircraft and works in cooperation with its counterparts and with the manufacturers, and this in order to meet an extremely strict standard, designed to maintain the safety of aircrews in training and operational activities," the statement added.
Despite the assessment, F-35 operational activity is reportedly anticipated to continue; however, Bar would give such uses individual case-by-case approval, according to the Israeli military.
The action was made after the US Air Force announced on Friday that its F-35 aircraft would be temporarily grounded due to a fault with the cartridges used to blast out the ejector seats in an emergency.
According to a report from Air Force Times, the US first identified the issue in April but did not ground the aircraft until after a three-month investigation. The issue was "traced back to a gap in the manufacturing process, which was addressed and changed," according to seat manufacturer Martin-Baker.
The manufacturer's spokesperson reportedly said the problematic component was lacking the magnesium powder that ignites the propellant that lifts a pilot to safety and was loose.
According to the report, the US tested 2,700 F-35 ejection seat cartridges since the issue was initially identified and recorded three failures. Individual US jet fighters that pass inspection will be put back into operation.
The US military has praised the fifth-generation F-35 as a "game-changer" for its offensive and stealth capabilities, as well as its capacity to communicate with other aircraft and create an information-sharing network.
The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, as well as more than a dozen other countries that have bought or received them, all fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - the top fighter plane produced by the Pentagon. The US Department of Defense will have to spend more than $1.7 trillion to purchase, run, and maintain the jets in the US, according to an April report from the Government Accountability Office cited by the Air Force Times.
More than 3,000 F-35s are reportedly expected to be produced by Lockheed Martin for militaries all over the world. Over the previous 15 years, more than 800 aircraft have been delivered, more than half of which are for the US military.
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