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Lockheed Martin’s feature-rich F-35 jet is probably a flight of fancy

There was a fair amount of skepticism when Lockheed Martin (LMT) struck a deal with the US government to develop the F-35 multi-tasking jet, as many experts believed the idea of squeezing too many features into the compact fighter plane was untenable. It is quite ironic that the Jack of all trades, as the F-35 was nicknamed, appears to be behaving like a master of none.

After several deliberations, the Pentagon this week grounded all of its F-35s temporarily after the $406-billion Joint Strike Fighter jet developed multiple snags, from software delays to faulty ejection seats. Following the reports, the company’s stock hit a new low Thursday.

The decision came after a preliminary probe into a recent crash involving an F-35B – the short landing and take-off variant of the fifth-generation aircraft – of the Marine Corps in South Carolina pointed to a possible engine malfunction. The F-35 fleet, Pentagon’s most expensive weapon system ever, will resume operations only after a fleet-wide investigation.

According to sources, the inspection will last for up to two days, with focus of on suspected faulty fuel tubes inside the engine, made by Pratt & Whitney. It is estimated that nearly half of the F-35s operated by the military, manufactured before 2016, are fitted with faulty tubes.

The Pentagon has grounded all of its F-35s temporarily after the $406-billion Joint Strike Fighter jet developed multiple snags

The troubles of the super jet will be far from over even after the current investigation, because the company and Pentagon are grappling with the multiple glitches in its system. Currently, as many as 320 F-35s are deployed across the world.

Elsewhere, the Pentagon’s action has prompted its Israeli counterpart to ground its F-35 fleet. A statement from the country’s Air Force said the planes will be subjected to a detailed inspection spanning several days, apparently in response to alerts issued by the US military.

Meanwhile, the Maryland-based Lockheed Martin secured a contract worth $400 million to develop an undisclosed volume of air-to-surface missiles for the US Air Force over a period of three years. The order follows a $500-million contract with the navy for providing support and maintenance to aircraft support systems.

Shares of Lockheed Martin lost about 5% this week, descending from a six-month high. Over the past twelve months, the stock gained approximately 4%.

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