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Entire F-35 fleet grounded and checked for fault after crash

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The entire fleet of F-35 stealth jets is to be checked for a fault following a crash in the US last month.

The post-crash investigation, carried out after a plane came down in South Carolina, identified a faulty fuel tube.

As a result the global fleet is on an “operational pause”.

Each £150m aircraft must now be checked before being cleared to fly again – with each check taking up to six hours.

It is a hugely embarrassing turn of events for the programme and has been described to Sky News by a senior defence industry source as a “cock up of epic proportions”.

Smoke rises at the site of a F-35 jet crash in Beaufort, South Carolina
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Smoke rises at the site of a F-35 jet crash in Beaufort, South Carolina

In a statement, F-35 programme spokesman Joe DellaVedova said the checks should be complete by the end of the week, adding: “If suspect fuel tubes are installed, the part will be removed and replaced.

“If known good fuel tubes are already installed, then those aircraft will be returned to flight status.

“Inspections are expected to be completed within the next 24 to 48 hours.”

Depending on how many aircraft are affected, the future progress of the programme – which is already the most expensive in history – could be in jeopardy.

The programme is led by the Pentagon but Britain is its only tier one partner.

Britain has 16 F-35B jets and has pledged to buy 138 in total.










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HMS Queen Elizabeth welcomes F-35B fighter jets on decks

The faulty part is believed to have been made by US engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney.

Pratt & Whitney would only say in a statement that they are “supporting the US Marine Corp investigation into the incident”.

The Royal Navy has told Sky News that one of the F-35s onboard the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has been checked and is flying again.

The F-35s stationed at RAF Marham in Norfolk are yet to be checked but are not due to fly this week.

“Safety is our paramount concern, therefore the UK has decided to pause some F-35 flying as a precautionary measure while we consider the findings of an ongoing enquiry,” an MoD spokesman said.

“F-35 flight trials from the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are continuing and the programme remains on schedule to provide our armed forces with a game-changing capability.

“We will continue to review the situation as further information becomes available.”

The first F-35B jets only landed on HMS Queen Elizabeth last month.

They are now in a period of flight trials off the east coast of the US.

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Journalist Jamal Khashoggi killed at consulate in Turkey

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Saudi Arabia has confirmed Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul after a fight broke out.

Mr Khashoggi, 59, went missing on 2 October during a visit to the consulate to get marriage papers and pressure had been growing on Saudi Arabia to explain his disappearance.

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor was quoted on state television as saying that a fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.

An official Saudi source said “discussions” between Mr Khashoggi and others at the consulate “did not go as required and developed in a negative way, leading to a fight and a quarrel”.

The source added that “the brawl aggravated to lead to his death and their attempt to conceal and cover what happened”.

Eighteen Saudis have been arrested so far in connection with the journalist’s death and the state news agency said the kingdom “expresses its deep regret” over Mr Khashoggi’s death.

In other developments, one of Saudi Arabia’s top intelligence officials, Ahmed El Asiri, has been sacked, as has royal court adviser Saud Al Qahtani.

The Saudi rulers were expected to say that General Asiri received orders from Prince Mohammed bin Salman to capture Mr Khashoggi for an interrogation in Saudi Arabia, but either misunderstood or overstepped them, according to two of the people familiar with Saudi plans who were quoted in the New York Times.

Demonstrators dressed as Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US President Donald Trump (C) protest outside the White House in Washington, DC, on October 19, 2018, demanding justice for missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi
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Donald Trump has been criticised for being soft on the Saudi leadership

Concerns grew for Mr Khashoggi’s safety after Turkish authorities said he had been killed in a premeditated murder.

An official, speaking to Reuters news agency, said at the time: “We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate.”

A senior police source told online news website Middle East Eye the journalist had been “brutally murdered, killed and cut into pieces”.

“Everything was videotaped to prove the mission had been accomplished and the tape was taken out of the country,” the source said.

Mr Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice, pictured waiting in front of the consulate, has not seen him since he entered the building
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Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice has not seen him since he entered the building

US president Donald Trump was criticised for not being tough enough on Saudi Arabia, saying that it was “too early” to determine consequences.

A White House statement described the murder as a “tragic incident”.

Turkish officials accused Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing and a number of countries, including the UK, pulled out of a major investment summit in Riyadh next week in protest.

Saudi consulate in Istanbul
Image:
Mr Khashoggi went missing while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul

Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford said from Istanbul that confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death was “not too much of a surprise from our sources in Turkey“.

“I think the Saudi just thought there was nowhere else to go – they had to admit it.

“Now they’ve been backed into a corner where they’ve had to admit something very badly went wrong.”

Mr Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, fled Saudi Arabia for Washington in September 2017, months after Prince Mohammed was appointed heir to the throne.

More from Jamal Khashoggi

He had been criticised by Saudi authorities for being too progressive and he had described Prince Mohammed as a “brash and abrasive young innovator” – and even said he was “acting like Putin”.

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Journalist’s killing was ‘tragic incident’

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The US has described the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as a “tragic incident”.

Mr Khashoggi went missing on 2 October during a visit to the consulate to get marriage papers and, after weeks of pressure, Saudi Arabia has admitted he died after a fight between him and others at the consulate.

Eighteen people have been arrested and countries such as Turkey have accused Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing.

But the US stopped short of such strong language, with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders saying Mr Khashoggi’s death was a “tragic incident”.

She said: “The United States acknowledges the announcement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that its investigation into the fate of Jamal Khashoggi is progressing and that it has taken action against the suspects it has identified thus far.

“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.

“We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr Khashoggi’s death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée, and friends.”

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Latest News

Journalist Khashoggi killed at consulate

Published

on

Saudi Arabia has confirmed Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul after a fight broke out.

According to the Saudi public prosecutor, the fight broke out between Mr Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.

Eighteen Saudis have been arrested so far in connection with the journalist’s death, state television added.

In other developments, one of Saudi Arabia’s top intelligence officials, Ahmed El Asiri, has been sacked, as has royal court adviser Saud Al-Qahtani.

The Saudi rulers were expected to say that General Asiri received orders from Prince Mohammed to capture Mr Khashoggi for an interrogation in Saudi Arabia, but either misunderstood or overstepped and took the dissident’s life, according to two of the people familiar with Saudi plans who were quoted in the New York Times.

Mr Khashoggi went missing on 2 October, during a visit to the consulate to get marriage papers.

His disappearance brought intense pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain what had happened and concerns grew after Turkish authorities said he had been killed in a premeditated murder.

An official, speaking to Reuters news agency, said at the time: “We believe that the murder was premeditated and the body was subsequently moved out of the consulate.”

A senior police source told online news website Middle East Eye the journalist had been “brutally murdered, killed and cut into pieces”.

“Everything was videotaped to prove the mission had been accomplished and the tape was taken out of the country,” they said.

US president Donald Trump was criticised for not being tough enough on Saudi Arabia, saying only that consequences would “have to be very severe” if Saudi rulers were found to have killed him.

Also, a number of countries, including the UK, pulled out of a major investment summit in Riyadh next week in protest.

Sky News special correspondent Alex Crawford said from Istanbul that confirmation of Khashoggi’s death was “not too much of a surprise from our sources in Turkey“.

“I think the Saudi just thought there was nowhere else to go – they had to admit it.

“Now they’ve been backed into a corner where they’ve had to admit something very badly went wrong.”

Mr Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia for Washington in September 2017, months after Prince Mohammed was appointed heir to the throne.

He had been criticised by Saudi authorities for being too progressive and he had described Prince Mohammed as a “brash and abrasive young innovator” – and even said he is “acting like Putin”.

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