The Israel Air Force has grounded all of its F-35 Adir stealth fighter jets following the Pentagon grounding the entire American fleet.
While Israel does not fly the models the US grounded – the A and B variants – “the commander of the IAF Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin has decided to take precautions and inspect all Adirs [F-35I],” the IDF said.
“The inspections will be held over the course of the coming days and at the end, the aircraft will return to full operational activity,” the army continued, stressing that “if it is required to operate, the F-35 Adirs are ready and prepared.”
The move comes following the crash of a Marine F-35B in South Carolina last month, which according to the investigation found that a technical failure in a fuel pipe in the engine led to the accident.
“If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced,” Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office, which oversees the F-35, was quoted as saying by the TaskAndPurpose news site.
“If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status,” DellaVedova said, adding that “inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.”
The F-35 program has seen its fair share of problems, and in 2016 the USAF grounded 15 F-35s after coolant tube insulation installed in the wings of the jet was found to be breaking down.
The plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, later determined that one of its suppliers had delivered the wrong insulation for the jet.
“We are actively partnering with the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office, our global customers and Pratt & Whitney to support the resolution of this issue and limit disruption to the fleet,” Lockheed Martin said Thursday.Israel is the only air force in the Middle East
to have the stealth fighter jet, and in May IAF head Norkin said the IAF had used the Adir in combat operations for the first time, using them on two operational missions on different fronts in the region, showing a photograph of the jet over Beirut.
With an extremely low radar signature, the F-35 is able to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory, such as Iran, as well as evade advanced missile defense systems, like the advanced Russian-made S-300 missile defense system recently delivered to Syria.
The IAF is expected to receive a total of 50 planes to make two full squadrons by 2024, and it received three more of the jets in mid-June, bringing the total in Israel to 12.
The Adir was heavily altered to Israel’s specifications and are embedded with Israeli-made electronic warfare pods as well as Israeli weaponry, all installed once the planes arrived in Israel. The jets also have a unique overriding Israeli-built C4 (Command, Control, Communications and Computing) system that runs “on top” of Lockheed’s built-in operating system.
The Israeli F-35Is also have components built by several local defense companies including Israel Aerospace Industries, which produced the outer wings, Elbit System-Cyclone, which built the center fuselage composite components, and Elbit Systems Ltd., which manufactured the pilots’ helmets.
Israel is also the only partner nation to have secured the right from the US to perform depot-level maintenance, including overhauling engines and airframe components, within its borders.
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