The U.S. Air Force has grounded most of its F-35 fighter jets because a faulty part could prevent a pilot from safely ejecting in an emergency.
The grounding is due to defects in some cartridge-actuated devices, which propel a pilot out of a plane in an emergency, according to Breaking Defense. The defects, identified by the company, are in Martin-Baker ejection seats.
Air Combat Command spokeswoman Alexi Worley confirmed the temporary grounding of its F-35s, a hyper-advanced fighter.
“ACC’s F-35s do have Martin-Baker ejection seats, and on July 19, began a Time Compliance Technical Directive to inspect all of the cartridges on the ejection seat within 90 days,” Worley stated, according to Breaking Defense.
“Out of an abundance of caution, ACC units will execute a stand-down on July 29 to expedite the inspection process. Based on data gathered from those inspections, ACC will make a determination to resume operations.”
Air Education and Training Command halted F-35 operations on Friday “to allow our logistics team to further analyze the issue and expedite the inspection process,” AETC spokeswoman Capt. Lauren Woods said.
The AETC oversees F-35 training squadrons at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
The Air Force also has grounded its T-38 Talon and T-6 Texan II training aircraft because of the glitch, according to Air Force Times.
About 300 aircraft will be on the ground until they can have a new part installed.
Air Force Times reported that the Navy and Marine Corps have grounded their F-35B and F-35C jets.
The Times reported that all planes will be inspected before their next flight.
Other aircraft in other branches of the service also are impacted.
“The Navy recently discovered an issue affecting cartridge actuated devices (CAD) in some fixed-wing aircraft. Affected aircraft include the F/A-18B/C/D Hornet; F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; E/A-18G Growler; and T-45 Goshawk and F-5 Tiger II training aircraft,” the Navy said in a release on Tuesday.
“Based on the results of these inspections and in conjunction with ACC, the lead command for F-35, AETC will make a decision regarding continued operations,” Woods said.
“Since CADs are used in the ejection process, a faulty CAD may not allow all the functions necessary to take place that would allow a complete and safe ejection,” said Michael Cisek, a senior associate at the aviation consulting firm AeroDynamic Advisory, per Breaking Defense.
“While the aircraft are flyable, I don’t think too many pilots would be willing to fly knowing they may not be able [to] eject.”
Bloomberg has reported that the F-35 program also is troubled by a lack of engines for the planes.