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From 1st Combat Strike To 1st Crash: It's Been A Chaotic Month For The F-35
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster for the F-35, from its first combat airstrike, to its first crash, to the Pentagon ordering the entire F-35 fleet grounded as it inspects a possibly-dangerous aircraft part.
The aircraft, part of a decades-long effort to create a next generation warplane that could do everything from providing close air support, to air superiority, surveillance, and electronic warfare, has been a punching bag for critics due to ballooning costs, delays, and safety concerns.
On Sept. 28, the oft-maligned F-35 program appeared to be vindicated when the Marine Corps’ variant, an F-35B, conducted an airstrike in support of operations in Afghanistan, for the first time.
The aircraft that performed the attack bore the name of ‘Lt. Col. C.K. ‘Otis’ Raible’ a commander of Marine Attack Squadron 211, who was fatally wounded in combat in 2008. It was Raible’s old squadron that conducted the attack against a “fixed Taliban target,” Task & Purpose previously reported.
But less than 24 hours later a different Marine F-35B out of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina crashed just five miles away from the base — the first crash in the aircraft’s 17-year history.
The pilot, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, ejected safely, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.
In the wake of the crash, the Pentagon ordered Wednesday that all variants — from the Marine F-35B, to the Air Force "A" version and Navy "C" variant — cease flight operations as the military conducts a fleet-wide inspection of a fuel tube within the engine.
It was a recent engineering investigation into the September crash that prompted the examination of the fuel tubes, Marine Capt. Christopher Harrison, a Pentagon spokesman, told Task & Purpose.
“This is being done as a precaution in order for all aircraft to go through a mandatory inspection that the Joint Program Office has asked us to complete,” Harrison added.
The inspection of the fuel tubes is already underway, and expected to be completed within 24 to 48 hours, Joe DellaVedova, a spokesman with the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office, told Task & Purpose.
“If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced," DellaVedova said. "If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.”
The F-35 program faces even more challenges than these most recent high-profile incidents. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ordered the Air Force and Navy to get mission capable rates for its aircraft, including the F-35, to above 80% by next year, Defense News reported.
That seems a tall order, since the Air Force's most recent figures put the F-35A at 54.67% mission capable, a nearly 10% decrease from the previous year (The Navy's figures are released less regularly, according to Defense News).
Actor Mark Wahlberg will be visiting troops overseas to plug Wahlburgers, a fast-casual restaurant chain owned by the actor and his two brothers, Donnie Wahlberg, and chef Paul Wahlberg.
US troops will not burn and pillage like Genghis Khan's hordes as a result of Trump intervening in war crimes cases, Milley says
The U.S. military will not disintegrate into an undisciplined horde following President Donald Trump's recent intervention in three war crimes cases, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley assured lawmakers on Wednesday.
Milley was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee when he was pressed by Iraq war veteran Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) about the president's actions in the cases of former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, retired Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn, and retired Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher.
Taliban fighters attempted to fight their way into Bagram Airfield on Wednesday by invading a medical facility just outside of the base's perimeter, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support said Wednesday.
J.P. Lawrence of Stars and Stripes and Jim LaPorta of Newsweek first reported that the battle lasted for several hours after using car bombs to attack the hospital, which is near the base's northern corner. Helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft were reportedly used to drop ordnance on the hospital.
An armed suspect was taken into custody at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi on Wednesday morning after a brief lockdown period, according to the Texas base's Facebook account.
Though the exact nature of the incident is unclear, base officials wrote that no shots were fired and no injuries were reported.
The new defense bill would create a public database for every complaint made about privatized housing
Among the dozens of requirements outlined in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act is the requirement for the Secretary of Defense to create a public database for privatized housing complaints.
So, that will be... a lot.