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August 1, 2022

US and Israel halt F-35 operations due to pilot ejection system issues

Risks have been noted in aircraft with Martin-Baker’s ejection seats, including on the US T-38 and T-6 aircraft.

The US Air Force (USAF) has temporarily paused some of the flight operations due to issues in the pilot ejection systems of the three aircraft.

According to a report published by Reuters, the USAF has paused operations to perform inspections on the aircraft, including F-35s, showing defects in the explosive cartridges in pilot ejection systems.

In a statement, 19th Air Force Commander major general Craig Wills said: “Our primary concern is the safety of our airmen, and it is imperative that they have confidence in our equipment.”

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 aircraft have Martin-Baker ejection seats, and the service will ‘execute a stand-down on 29 July to expedite the inspection process’ of the associated systems, the report added.

Besides, this process is expected to impact the USAF’s training fleet.

According to the USAF, around 203 T-38 and 76 T-6 aircraft, that forms nearly 40% of T-38 fleet and 15% of T-6 fleet, may also have the same issue.

Following this USAF’s announcement, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has also grounded its F-35 aircraft activity on 31 July.

In a tweet, Israeli Air Force said: “The Commander of the Air Force, major general Tomer Bar, held a special situation assessment on Saturday evening following information received from US regarding an inspection for a defect in ejection mechanism in pilot’s seats in F35 aircraft. According to manufacturer’s instructions, in order to ensure integrity of exhaust seats, an inspection is required to ensure integrity of this component.”

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