The U.S. military has grounded some F-35 fighter jets after a crash forced a pilot to eject from the Marine Corps version of the aircraft earlier this month in Texas.
An unspecified number of planes are being investigated as part of a Time Compliance Technical Directive (TCTD), issued by the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) on Tuesday, an official from the office confirmed to The Hill Thursday.
The directive recommended “restrictions on a small number of aircraft, which have been evaluated to be of higher risk, from flight operations and until procedures can be developed for their return to flight.”
The official added that the affected aircraft have been identified, though they did not say which models were included, and added that the JPO “will work with the military services and international partners to ensure understanding of the risks identified in the TCTD.”
A U.S. pilot ejected from an F-35B on Dec. 15 at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas after the aircraft had a strange, slow-motion crash while it was landing vertically. The incident, captured in video widely shared across social media, involved an F-35 that had not yet been transferred by maker Lockheed Martin to the U.S. government.
There have been several other F-35 incidents and mishaps in the past year, including an accident that involved the fifth generation fighter aircraft crashing into the ocean, a faulty component found in ejection seats and a halted delivery of the plane after Lockheed Martin in August found a part used in the jet’s engine was made in China.
This JPO statement noted that the investigation is a “preliminary assessment,” and that the safety of flight crews is the office’s main concern.
A separate investigation into the Dec. 15 mishap is still ongoing.
Lawmakers have frequently criticized the F-35 program for its high price tag and a nonstop string of issues over the past decade.
Still, the U.S. military has 450 F-35s within the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, with plans to grow the fleet to about 2,500 in the coming years.