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Pentagon grounds F-35 fighter jets

The Pentagon has grounded a global fleet of F-35 fighter jets after one of the planes crashed for the first time.

The aircraft, which are the most expensive ever made, will have fuel tubes removed and replaced.

Britain has 16 F-35B jets and has pledged to buy 138 in total.

Unit costs vary, but the planes are said to cost around $100m (£76.6m) each.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "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.

Image: Smoke rises at the site of a F-35 jet crash in Beaufort, South Carolina

"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."

A Marine Corps F-35B was completely destroyed in a crash during training in South Carolina on 28 September.

That crash came a day after the F-35 was first used in combat – when Marine Corps fighters hit Taliban targets in Afghanistan.

Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman for the F-35 program, said: "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."

Mr DellaVedova added that if "known good" tubes are already in place, then those planes will be returned to operational status.

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Video: HMS Queen Elizabeth welcomes F-35B fighter jets on decks

He said inspections were expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Mr DellaVedova added: "The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents.

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernise the F-35 for the warfighter and our defence partners."

The F-35 program is considered to be the most expensive weapons system in US history.

It cost an estimated $400bn and had a goal to produce 2,500 aircraft in the coming years.

Mr DellaVedova said: "The primary goal following any mishap is the prevention of future incidents.

"We will take every measure to ensure safe operations while we deliver, sustain and modernise the F-35 for the warfighter and our defence partners."

More from UK

When the planes first touched down on UK soil, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: "These formidable fighters are a national statement of our intent to protect ourselves and our allies from intensifying threats across the world."

The F-35 programme has been hit by numerous delays, cost overruns and setbacks, including a mysterious engine fire in 2014 that also led to commanders temporarily grounding the aircraft.

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