WASHINGTON — The US Air Force has grounded almost all of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets in its inventory. The landing is temporary, the US Air Force said, until the problem is fixed. The problem is – the explosive rounds that propel the F-35 pilot’s seat ejector don’t function as intended.
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The British company Martin-Baker is a manufacturer of the ejection seat for the F-35. In fact, this company equips almost every known Western design aircraft of the past and present. This fact is important because weeks ago the US Navy discovered a similar problem in some Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and E/A-18G Growlers.
The Mk16 is the ejection seat installed on all F-35 modifications. Previous versions of it have been integrated into the T-6 Texan II, Eurofighter Typhoon, NASA T-38N, and USAF T-38 aircraft. The company says the Mk16 is the only US government-certified seat that meets all the necessary requirements under the F program -35 Escape System for Neck Injury Criteria [NIC].
Within the next 90 days, the US Air Force will have to complete all assigned inspections to fix the problem. The order is effective July 29, and all Air Force F-35 catapults must be inspected. Depending on the final assessment, Air Combat Command will decide whether to resume F-35 operations.
However, the command says the combat duty of the Pacific Air Forces [PACAF], which is dependent on the F-35 in Alaska, will not be interrupted. Only the Air Force is known to have landed its F-35s. The US Navy and Marine Corps have so far refused to do the same with their F-35 inventory.
Logically, the F-35s in the skies above Europe are also grounded. This will somehow affect the mission of protecting the airspace of NATO partners and members. Especially at a time when there is a war between Ukraine and Russia and more than ever these planes are needed in the air.
The US has already sent some of its fifth-generation fighters to Europe to temporarily take over air missions and air policing in Europe. Such is the case with the F-22 Raptor in Poland.
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