The crash of the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft near Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort in South Carolina on Sept. 28 last year was caused due to a defective fuel tube, according to a report released by U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“An investigation determined a manufacturing defect caused an engine fuel tube to rupture during flight, resulting in a loss of power to the engine”, said the report.
The program grounded the entire F-35 fleet to inspect all of its engines following the crash. The program office reported that it identified 117 aircraft with the same type of fuel tubes that it must replace.
“According to program officials, the grounding generally did not impact the delivery of the aircraft, as the
contractor has provided replacement fuel tubes that were installed on a majority of the affected aircraft by the end of 2018”, added the GAO report.
F-35B is the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the F-35 Lightning II, which is considered as the most expensive weapon program in American military history.
While the F-35 jet has experienced minor mishaps earlier, the Sept. 28 crash was the first time an aircraft had crashed. The pilot ejected safely before the crash. In April last year, a Marine Corps F-35B was forced to make an emergency landing at Cherry Point, North Carolina, after the aircraft began leaking fuel.
Last month, a Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jet disappeared from radar and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. This was the second crash of the global F-35 fleet. Even though some debris from the crashed jet was recovered, the pilot and the fuselage is yet to be recovered.