It has NOT been a good week for the United States Air Force or the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
Late Tuesday an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter flying out of the base located on the Florida panhandle, crashed. Fortunately the pilot, whose name has not been released, was able to eject and is safe and in stable condition, but the incident is the second crash of an aircraft operating out of the base in less than a week. Last Friday an F-22 Raptor also crashed, and thankfully that pilot was also able to eject and survived the mishap.
While details aren't clear on whether the F-35 was destroyed, if so it would be the third such crash in as many years that resulted in a total write-off of the airframe, The Drive reported.
On Tuesday evening prior to the crash, the fifth-generation, low-observable, single-seat, single-engine F-35A Lightning II was part of the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing. The news of the crash was announced late Tuesday via social media:
"An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron crashed upon landing around 9:30 p.m. today at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The pilot successfully ejected and was transported to the 96th Medical Group Hospital at Eglin AFB, Fla., for evaluation and monitoring. The pilot is in stable condition. At the time of the accident, the pilot was participating in a routine night training sortie. First responders from the 96th Test Wing are on the scene and the site is secured. The accident is under investigation. There was no loss of life or damage to civilian property."
The mission of the 58th Fighter Squadron named the "Gorillas" is to train flight crew and maintainers on the Lockheed Martin-built aircraft. The unit became the first F-35A training squadron in October 2009 when it began preparations for training operations, and it received its first of Joint Strike Fighters in late 2010.
Eglin AFB is home to a large number of aircraft and also serves as the training base for the F-22 aircraft.
The crash of the F-35A follows the F-22 Raptor that went down last Friday. CBS News reported that the F-22, which was part of the 325th Fighter Wing, crashed about 12 miles northeast of the base when it crashed.
As reported by Popular Mechanics the loss of just two jets in the past week represents a "staggering financial loss of a quarter billion dollars," which highlights the extreme cost of these two modern combat aircraft. CNN put the price tag for the Air Force's F-35A at about $90 million. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been a lightning rod for criticism due to its costs.
These most recent incidents follow the September 2018 crash of a United States Marine Corps F-35B in South Carolina, which was traced to a manufacturing defect, and the April 2019 crash involving a Japanese Air Self Defense Force F-35A during a night training flight. While the U.S. Marine pilot was able to eject and was reported safe, the crash of the Japanese pilot tragically resulted in his death. The Japanese military blamed the crash on pilot disorientation.
As Popular Mechanics also noted, the F-35 has a good safety record and such crashes are actually rare. Aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin reported that the fleet of F-35s hit 250,000 flight hours this past March.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.