US Air Force suspends some operations due to pilot ejection seat issues

U.S. Air Force F-35A jets from the 388th and 428th Fighter Wings form in an “elephant march” during an exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, U.S., January 6 2020. US Air Force/R. Nial Bradshaw/Handout via REUTERS.

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WASHINGTON, July 29 (Reuters) – Concerns over defects in the explosive cartridges of pilot ejection systems aboard three U.S. military jets, including the F-35, have forced some U.S. operations to temporarily halt in order to to perform checks, the Air Force said on Friday.

“Our primary concern is the safety of our Airmen and it is imperative that they have confidence in our equipment,” Major General Craig Wills, commander of the 19th Air Force, said in a statement.

“This is a temporary shutdown, not a fleet-wide grounding,” Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said in a statement about concerns about “a component used in the pilot ejection system of several aircraft“.

Lockheed Martin’s (LMT.N) F-35s are equipped with Martin-Baker ejection seats, the Air Force said, and the service “will execute a hold July 29 to expedite the inspection process” of those systems.

The Air Force training fleet is also affected, the Air Force said. “We suspect that approximately 203 T-38 aircraft and 76 T-6 aircraft may be affected by this issue. This number represents approximately 40% of our T-38 fleet and 15% of our T-6 fleet.

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Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Paul Simao

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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