F-35B on HMS Queen Elizabeth
News

F-35 Jets UK Flight Trials To Continue Despite US Grounding

The flight trials of F-35B Lightning fighter jets on board HMS Queen Elizabeth will continue, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

F-35B on HMS Queen Elizabeth

The aircraft are currently part of flight trials with HMS Queen Elizabeth off the coast of the United States (Picture: MoD).

The flight trials of F-35B Lightning fighter jets on board HMS Queen Elizabeth will continue, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

The US military has grounded its entire fleet of F-35 jets after a crash in South Carolina last month; a faulty fuel tube was blamed and each aircraft is to be inspected.

A spokesman for the MOD said the two jets on board Queen Elizabeth were fitted with a newer fuel pipe and are safe to fly. The fuel pipes of the nine F35 jets still in Britain will also be checked.

After the US decision, the Ministry of Defence spokesman previoulsy announced the trials would be paused:

“Safety is our paramount concern, therefore the UK has decided to pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry.

"F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are continuing and the programme remains on schedule to provide our Armed Forces with a game-changing capability.

"We will continue to review the situation as further information becomes available."

In the past few weeks, F-35B aircraft have conducted night flying trials on HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time and conducted the first F-35B landings and takeoffs from its deck using American aircraft flown by British pilots.

Royal Navy Commander Nathan Gray and RAF Squadron Leader Andy Edgell were the first pilots to land the aircraft on the flight deck of the carrier.

The UK's F-35B aircraft arrived at their Marham home for the first time earlier this year, with a further five arriving in August.

Britain now has 16 of a planned 138 F-35B jets.

The lead manufacturer is US firm Lockheed Martin but across the 3,000 jets being built, 15% of each one is comprised of parts from British companies.

In a statement, the F-35 Joint Programme Office said the US and its international partners had suspended flight operations while a fleet-wide inspection of fuel tubes was conducted.

"If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status," the statement said.

"Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.

"The action to perform the inspection is driven from initial data from the ongoing investigation of the F-35B that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on September 28."

A Lockheed Martin spokesman said: "We are actively partnering with the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Programme Office, our global customers and (engine manufacturer) Pratt & Whitney to support the resolution of this issue and limit disruption to the fleet."

More: F-35 ABCs: Why Are There Three Variants?