Israel grounded 11 of its F-35A stealth fighters on Sunday after an F-35B US fighter crashed earlier this month in Texas.
The F-35 is reportedly one of the IDF’s key components to its stealth attacks against enemy advanced weapons in a variety of countries.
An IDF statement said that the grounding decision was made after an initial review was taken of the Israeli F-35 aircraft and revealed potentially similar malfunctions as what had occurred in the US fighter’s crash.
At the same time, the IDF and Lockheed Martin, who manufactures the F-35, pointed out that it is not certain the Israeli F-35A has the same problem.
Rather, they emphasized that the grounding, which only applies to 11 aircraft out of a much larger fleet of F-35s and other planes, was taken as a precaution.
There are a number of differences between the F-35A and B, including that the B-version can land vertically like a helicopter and hover like a drone, whereas the A-version lands like any standard aircraft.
Incident in Texas
During the incident in Texas, the aircraft started landing according to standard procedures, but after a malfunction, it smashed into the Fort Worth runway.
Seconds before it would have been too late, the pilot successfully activated his ejection seat and he was able to parachute to safety.
This has been only one of a series of incidents with different versions of the F-35 aircraft, including one in July when both the US and Israel halted training flights for the plane.
At that time, the problem was the ejection seat – which earlier this month functioned properly and saved the pilot’s life.
The July decision was made by IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Tomer Bar, and the entire fleet was evaluated with two planes examined per day by IAF teams who were given equipment by Lockheed Martin.
Each plane found to have working ejection seats was quickly returned to flight.
“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,” Bar said in July.
“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.”Tomer Bar
At the time, the US Air Force grounded the jets due to a faulty cartridge-actuated device inside its ejection seat that would prevent the pilot from being able to safely blast out of the aircraft during an emergency.
As of July, Israel had 33 of the advanced jets in two squadrons, the 116th Lions of the South Squadron and the 140th Golden Eagle Squadron based at Nevatim Airbase. The IAF also had a third squadron used for training.
The jets have an extremely low radar signature, allowing them to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory. Since becoming operational in 2018, the F-35 squadrons have carried out missions both over the Gaza Strip and reportedly in Syria as part of Israel’s “war between the wars” campaign.
Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.