Israel Air Force grounds third of F-35I fighters pending safety review

Israel Defense Forces

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) grounded 11 of its 33 F-35I “Adir” fighter jets pending a safety review.

The decision was based on the recommendation of the F-35 program office at the US Department of Defense, issued following the crash of an F-35B during a test flight at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth (FWH) in Texas, the United States.

“The IAF will analyze the findings from the incident and will draw conclusions and recommendations for the safe return of the aircraft to operational duty,” the air force said in a statement.

On December 15, 2022, a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II fighter jet was attempting to land vertically at Fort Worth air base when it bounced off the runway. The aircraft’s nose then pitched down, and the nose gear collapsed, sending the jet sliding forward and spinning slowly. The pilot ejected from the fighter.

Lockheed Martin uses the runway at Fort Worth air base for testing and the aircraft in question had not been yet delivered to the US military. The investigation into the accident is still ongoing.

Unexpected consequences

It might seem unexpected that the crash of December 15, 2022, would have consequences for the IAF.

The aircraft that went down in Fort Worth was a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of Lockheed Martin’s fighter and was attempting to land vertically when it crashed.

Unlike the aircraft involved in the incident, the fleet of 33 F-35I “Adir” jets that the IAF operates is based on the F-35A, the conventional takeoff variant.

Moreover, the F-35Bs of the British Royal Navy and of the Italian Navy were seemingly unaffected.

One may thus suspect that the early findings of the ongoing investigation pointed at an element common to multiple, if not all, variants of the F-35.

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