The Pentagon on Thursday temporarily halted all flight operations of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets after an F-35 crashed in Beaufort County two weeks ago.
The Defense Department’s F-35 Joint Program Office said it will conduct a fleet-wide inspection of potentially faulty engine tubes over two days. The September 28 crash near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort was the first ever for the relatively new plane.
Beaufort County deputies said the pilot safely ejected before the crash into a marsh near the Grays Hill community. There were no injuries on the ground and no one else was aboard the aircraft. No cause has yet been revealed for that crash. An announcement from MCAS Beaufort said the plane was part of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing of F-35B Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501.
While the F-35 is assembled by Lockheed Martin, its engines are manufactured by Pratt & Whitney. The Marine variant involved in the crash has the ability to take off and land vertically in place.
The F-35B is a relatively new aircraft that is capable of taking off and landing vertically. MCAS Beaufort in 2015 became one of the first Marine bases to host a squadron and the planes have only recently been cleared for deployment after problems during the development and testing process. More than 300 F-35 aircraft are stationed at Air Force or Marine Corps installations, according to the Defense Department.