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US grounds F-35 jet fleet after runway fire

July 5, 2014

WASHINGTON - The United States military has grounded its entire fleet of stealth F-35 fighter planes, pending a probe after one of the multirole jets caught fire while taking off in Florida, the Pentagon said.

The call to ground the Lockheed Martin multirole fighters came days before the single-seat, single-engine, fifth-generation jet was to debut in Britain.

On June 23, one of the jets caught fire while it was taking off at Elgin Air Force Base in Florida. The pilot was forced to abandon the flight. No one was injured in the accident.

It was the latest in a series of technical problems and delays that have plagued the $396 billion fighter jet programme.

Last year, the fighter jet was grounded after a crack in an engine component was discovered during a routine inspection.

It is said to be the costliest weapons programme in US military history.

In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the "root cause of the incident remains under investigation".

"Additional inspections of F-35 engines have been ordered, and return to flight will be determined based on inspection results and analysis of the engineering data," according to the Pentagon.

The spokesman said that the "preparations continue for F-35 participation in international air shows in the United Kingdom. However, a final decision will come early next week."

Britain was also set to commit to the F-35 fighter project of producing 3,000 aircraft, costing more than $1,000 billion globally.

A statement on the website says the fighter jet "can operate in virtually any battle situations, from paved runways to aircraft carriers to roads and austere bases".

The website says no other fighter has "the versatility and combined capabilities of the multi-role F-35".

With 8.4m lines of software, F-35 is by far the most complex fighter ever built.

"The F-35's built-in sustainment establishes new levels of operational readiness. Aircraft share common parts, support equipment and technical data, yielding greater reliability and long-term cost savings," Lockheed Martin says.

"And the F-35's strong global partnership and broad industrial base ensures affordability through economies of scale while delivering thousands of technology sector jobs around the world," the company adds about "the world's only international 5th Generation multirole fighter".

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Source: Big News Network (United Arab Emirates)

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