US temporarily grounds most of its F-35s over ejection seat issues

Simon Vandamme /

Problems with Martin-Baker ejection seats have been discovered in the US military’s F-35 fighter jets, leading to some of the aircraft being temporarily grounded.  

According to several independent reports, the US Air Force (USAF), Navy (USN) and Marine Corps (USMC) have all been grounding their F-35s in droves to perform inspections on the aircraft.  

The USAF discovered that some ejection seat cartridges were faulty back in April 2022. However, the scale of the problem only became apparent months later, the Air Force Times reports, referring to sources within the military.  

A separate report by Breaking Defense indicates US Air Combat Command (ACC) started inspecting its F-35s for faulty cartridges on July 19. On July 29 both the AAC and the Air Education and Training Command temporarily grounded their F-35s to expediate the process of inspections.   

By July 27, 2,700 ejection seat cartridges had been checked, with just three being declared faulty, according to the Air Force Times source. Only some production runs contained the problem, and a short inspection was enough to identify the faulty cartridges, the source added.  

Manufacturer Martin-Baker provided all necessary data to help with inspections.  

Several other countries operating the F-35 announced that they had performed their own inspections on the aircraft. The Israeli Air Force stopped operating its F-35s on July 30, according to The Times of Israel, while Norwegian and Dutch air forces said they were investigating the issue without stopping flights, according to local media.  

While the Air Force Times source said only the F-35’s ejection seats had been affected by the fault, earlier reports suggest the same issue was discovered on various models of F/A-18 fighter jets, E/A-18G electronic warfare aircraft, T-45 and F-5 trainers.  

These latest reports follow a host of earlier ones, as issues affecting Martin-Baker ejection seats on Eurofighter Typhoons, BAE Systems Hawks and a number of other aircraft were detected.  

AeroTime contacted Martin-Baker for comment. 

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