Navy's F-35C Suffers 1st Major Mishap, Costing Millions in Damages
Sep 14, 2018
by Gina Harkins
Two Navy fighter jets were damaged during an aerial refueling exercise off the coast of Virginia late last month, including an F-35C participating in its first round of operational tests aboard an aircraft carrier.
The F-35C was receiving fuel from an F/A-18F Super Hornet off the coast of Virginia when debris from an aerial-refueling basket was ingested into the Joint Strike Fighter jet's engine intake, said Lt. Travis Callaghan, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces.
The mishap led to engine damage for the F-35C, assigned to the California-based "Rough Riders" with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125. While rare, Callahan said parts of refueling baskets being sucked into an engine's intake are the most common form of non-bird foreign object or debris strikes in the Navy's tactical aviation fleet.
The incident marked the first Class-A mishap for the Navy's carrier variant of the F-35, which means the aircraft suffered at least $2 million in damages. Damages to the Super Hornet are still being assessed, Callahan said, but it's currently classified as a Class-C mishap, putting estimated damages between $50,000 and $500,000.
One day earlier, an Air Force F-35A pilot from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida encountered an in-flight emergency. When the pilot turned back to return to base, the aircraft's nose gear collapsed following a safe landing.
There were no injuries reported in either aircraft and both landed safely. The F-35C returned to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and the F/A-18F to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia, where it is based with the "Jolly Rogers" of VFA-103.
About a half dozen F-35C Lightning II aircraft have been operating aboard the Lincoln for the last month. It's part of the new joint strike fighter's operational tests.
The Navy's F-35 variant, designed specifically for taking off and landing on aircraft carriers, is expected to reach initial-operational capability by next February.
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Photo caption: An F-35C Lightning II attached to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 approaches the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel E. Gheesling)
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