F-35 fighter jets: Over 10 crashes in 8 years raise alarm over safety - M5 Dergi
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F-35 fighter jets: Over 10 crashes in 8 years raise alarm over safety

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Facing reliability, maintainability challenges, 10 F-35 Lockheed Martin fighter jets crashed since 2016, mainly in US, according to data compiled by Anadolu

This was the 10th crash of an F-35 jet since 2016, according to figures compiled by Anadolu from a database maintained by the Aviation Safety Network, which is sourced from media reports.

The development of the fighter jet, which is manufactured by US firm Lockheed Martin, took off back in 1995 within the scope of the Joint Strike Fighter program and 26 years later, its full-rate production started.

Three years before its full-rate production began, the warplane suffered its first crash in its history.

The following is a timeline of major accidents involving the F-35 jet over the past eight years:

May 29, 2024

A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jet crashed near an airfield in Albuquerque, New Mexico, close to the southern US state’s main international airport.

The warplane crashed after departing from runway 21 in the vicinity of the airport, with the pilot ejecting from the aircraft. The pilot was subsequently hospitalized with serious injuries.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue said on X that the pilot of the jet was located and transported while the fire was extinguished.

The crash brought under the spotlight the recurrent concerns about the safety of the jets.

Sept. 17, 2023

An F-35 fighter jet of the US Marine Corps crashed in the US state of South Carolina.

The accident occurred at the Marine Air Station Beaufort in the city of North Charleston.

After switching the jet to autopilot mode, the pilot managed to eject from the aircraft and survived.

Oct. 19, 2022

An F-35 fighter jet went down during its final approach maneuver to land at the Hill Air Force Base in the US state of Utah.

The pilot ejected and survived the crash with minor injuries, while the jet was completely destroyed.

An accident investigation board determined that the aircraft lost control just before landing because of errors in the air data system, leaving the pilot with no chance to regain control.

Jan. 24, 2022

An F-35 fighter jet had an accident while landing on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

The pilot ejected safely, but the aircraft hit the edge of the ship’s deck, slid along its entire length, and then plunged into the sea.

Seven sailors sustained injuries in the accident, which the then-commander of the US 7th Fleet Vice Admiral Karl Thomas said was “the result of pilot error.”

Jan. 4, 2022

A South Korean Air Force F-35A conducted an emergency landing at an airbase in South Chungcheong province.

The cause was a landing gear malfunction believed to be related to avionics.

During the landing at the Seosan Air Base, the aircraft also collided with a flying eagle.

The damage sustained by the aircraft was severe enough that it was deemed irreparable and written off.

Nov. 17, 2021

An F-35B aircraft of the British Royal Air Force plunged into the Mediterranean Sea during takeoff from the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

The pilot ejected safely and was later rescued. The aircraft was also recovered from the seabed.

Sept. 29, 2020

An F-35 fighter jet of the US Marine Corps came into contact with an extended-range tanker during an air-to-air refueling operation.

The pilot successfully ejected while the aircraft crashed and was destroyed.

The tanker made a forced landing with its landing gear up in a carrot field near Thermal, an area in the US state of California.

May 19, 2020

An F-35 of the US Air Force crash-landed at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

The pilot ejected safely, sustaining non-life-threatening injuries.

The aircraft rolled, caught fire, and was completely destroyed. An investigation concluded that the cause was a combination of unchecked speed during the landing and a problem with the aircraft’s flight control.

April 9, 2019

An F-35A of the Japanese Air Force crashed into the Pacific Ocean off northern Japan.

The plane went missing during a training exercise that involved three more F-35A jets.

The pilot died in the accident and his body was recovered months later.

Sept. 28, 2018

An F-35B fighter jet belonging to the US military crashed during a training flight.

The accident occurred in coastal South Carolina, with the pilot managing to eject safely.

The cause of the crash was determined to be a manufacturing defect that caused an engine fuel tube to burst during the flight.

Oct. 27, 2016

An F-35B jet caught fire at a US Marine Corps facility in Beaufort, South Carolina.

The pilot was forced to make an emergency landing and the cause of the problem was said to be a faulty bracket issue, a known potential hazard.

‘Reliability and maintainability issues’

According to an annual report published by the US Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, the F-35 Lockheed Martin fighter jets last fiscal year faced ongoing challenges with reliability, maintainability, and availability, with aircraft being ready for missions just 51% of the time, falling short of the targeted 65% goal.

“The operational suitability of the F-35 fleet remains below service expectations and requirements,” the report, which was released in late January, said.

The report also said that the F-35 continues to fall short of the reliability and maintainability benchmarks outlined in the Operational Requirements Document.

Similarly, according to a US Government Accountability Office report released in April this year, the costs “to sustain the F-35 fleet keep increasing – from $1.1 trillion in 2018 to $1.58 trillion in 2023.”

It said the US Department of Defense “plans to fly the F-35 less than originally estimated, partly because of reliability issues with the aircraft.”

“The F-35’s ability to perform its mission has also trended downward over the past 5 years,” the report added.

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