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The US military has temporarily grounded its entire fleet of F-35 fighter jets in the wake of a crash in SC last month.

Depending on how many aircraft are affected, the future progress of the programme - which is already the most expensive in history - could be in jeopardy.

The South Carolina crash - the first ever for the 5th-generation plane - ironically happened just a day after an F-35B successfully completed a mission in Afghanistan, an event that was reported by the Pentagon as a major milestone for the program. "Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours". It was the first time an F-35 has crashed.

The announcement of the grounding comes after a United States Marine Corps F-35B from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, known as the "Warlords", crashed in SC near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort on September 28. The F-35B is the Marine Corps version of the aircraft.

The US Marine Corp led the way with a flight ban on all of its F-35s after one suffered a catastrophic engine failure and crashed in SC in September 28 - the pilot ejected safely, but the remains of the broken fuselage had to be picked out of boggy marshlands near Beaufort. This allows the plane to hover and land vertically like a helicopter and is a critical requirement for the Marine Corps, which often operates from amphibious ships with smaller decks than the Navy's aircraft carriers.

During the crash investigation, certain fuel tubes were identified as a potential problem, largely involving aircraft built before 2015. If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.

The pilot, a U.S. Marine, according to officials, ejected safely.

In this 2016 file photo, an Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheba, Israel. The more complex Navy and Marine Corps variants of the plane remained above $100 million.

Initial data from the ongoing investigation into the September 28 crash indicates a fuel tube may have been faulty. John Pendleton, an official for the federal watchdog agency Government Accountability Office, said there hasn't been enough focus within the Air Force on sustaining the F-35, instead of focusing on production.

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

The Israeli warplanes, purchased from the USA, are a different model than the American one that crashed.

"We are actively partnering with the Pentagon's F-35 Joint Program Office, our global customers, and Pratt & Whitney to support the resolution of this issue and limit disruption to the fleet", Lockheed spokesman Michael Friedman said.

Other nations that have signed contracts to join the F-35 program include the UK, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway, according to the Pentagon.


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