Israel grounds 11 F-35 jets after US fighter crashes during test
Military says some of its fleet to be examined for issue that apparently downed a modified version of the plane in Texas
Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.
The Israeli Air Force on Sunday said it had grounded 11 of its advanced F-35 stealth jets after a similar model of the plane crashed during a test flight in the United States earlier this month.
On December 15, an F-35B crashed on a runway at a US Navy base in Texas, reportedly during a test of its hovering capabilities being conducted by Lockheed Martin. The pilot ejected safely and was unharmed.
The Israeli military on Sunday said 11 of its F-35I jets would be checked for a similar issue to the one that apparently caused the crash, before being returned to service, following recommendations by the F-35 Joint Program Office.
“From the findings and the information given, it was found that these planes require a dedicated inspection in order to rule out the possibility of a repeated malfunction in the Israeli array,” the Israel Defense Forces said.
The F-35I, the Israeli version of the F-35, is based on the F-35A, which has a conventional takeoff and landing system. The B variant, used by the US Marine Corps and other navies, allows for short takeoff and vertical landing on aircraft carriers.
The military did not detail why only some of its jets may have the issue that caused the F-35B to crash.
F-35 crash-lands in Fort Worth, TX – pilot ejected ???????? #aviation pic.twitter.com/Ov7qXf0xad
— Houston Air Watch (@houstonairw) December 15, 2022
Earlier this year, the IAF grounded its entire F-35 fleet over a problem with its ejector seats, which was discovered by the US. The jets were returned to service after a week, after being examined for the issue.
The fifth-generation F-35 has been lauded as a “game-changer” by the military, not only for its offensive and stealth capabilities, but for its ability to connect its systems with other aircraft and form an information-sharing network.
Israel has agreed to purchase at least 50 F-35 fighter jets from the US defense contractor Lockheed Martin. So far, 36 aircraft have been delivered, and the remaining planes are slated to arrive in batches of twos and threes until 2024.