Pentagon halts Lockheed Martin F-35 jet flights to examine fuel tubes

FILE PHOTO: U.S. airmen walk next to a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft, as it is moved, on the eve of the 52nd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport near Paris, France June 18, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - All U.S. and international F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin Co have been grounded so that fuel tubes can be examined, a Pentagon spokesperson said on Thursday.

The inspection was spurred by initial data from an ongoing investigation of the F-35B, the short takeoff and landing version of the jet, that crashed in the vicinity of Beaufort, South Carolina on Sept. 28.[nL2N1WE1K3]

The inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours, the Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.

A person familiar with Lockheed’s delivery pipeline said the company was already flying and testing the jets slated for near-term delivery.

Lockheed is slated to deliver 91 jets this year.

Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum