Designed to operate from amphibious ships and austere operating bases, the US Marine Corps' F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are built by Lockheed Martin. An F-35B crashed Dec. 15, 2022, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas. Coffee or Die Magazine composite.
An F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter has crashed in Texas.
In a two-sentence statement emailed to Coffee or Die Magazine, defense contractor Lockheed Martin said the unidentified pilot “ejected successfully” around 10:15 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 15, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth.
“Safety is our priority, and we will follow appropriate investigation protocol,” the prepared message said.
Photographs of the damaged fifth-generation fighter showed it to the side of the base’s runway. Lockheed Martin officials declined to answer other questions.
F-35 Joint Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt addresses workers from the F-35’s Final Assembly and Check-Out team at Lockheed Martin’s Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 03, 2022. The F-35 Joint Program Office is the Department of Defense's focal point for the 5th generation strike aircraft for the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and our allies. US Navy Photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Matthew Olay.
It's the second F-35 mishap at the Fort Worth base in the past two months. On Oct. 5, a US Navy engine in a contractor F-35 was damaged by foreign object debris — called FOD — during flight, according to Naval Safety Command.
It was classified as "Class A" mishap, which means the aircraft sustained at least $2.5 million in damage.
Lockheed Martin manufactures the F-35B for the US Marine Corps and shares the Fort Worth tarmac with a mix of US Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, and Texas Air National Guard units. More than 40 commands and 10,000 service members and civilian employees staff the base.
The adjacent Lockheed Martin’s complex sprawls across a space as large as 130 football fields, with a main production floor that stretches more than a mile from end to end.
US Marine Corps pilot Maj. N.H. “Robo” Thayer lands his F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter at Naval Air Facility El Centro in California on Feb. 26, 2021. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Drew Verbis.
US Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, the Pentagon spokesperson, told reporters Thursday afternoon that the pilot was a federal employee but the F-35B still belonged to Lockheed Martin.
"The aircraft had not been transferred to the US government yet," Ryder said.
Military officials in Texas and the Pentagon declined to answer other questions about the emergency response to the crash or the ongoing probe into what caused the mishap.
The Pentagon hasn't confirmed the authenticity of footage being shared on social media that appears to show the F-35B trying a vertical landing, hovering just above the tarmac, seconds before the pilot began experiencing problems.
The aircraft bumps the pavement, then its nose lurches down and smacks the deck. The plane skids, and then the pilot ejects.
An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter launches from the flight deck of the amphibious assault carrier Tripoli on Aug. 4, 2022 in the Pacific Ocean. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Malcolm Kelley.
With an estimated $1.7 trillion price tag, the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program remains the Department of Defense’s most expensive weapon system program.
Lockheed Martin has delivered more than 700 of the stealth planes to the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.
Despite delays, technological glitches, and cost overruns, the three services intend to buy and fly 2,470 F-35s during the program’s 66-year life cycle.
An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from the "Flying Leathernecks" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship Makin Island in the Pacific Ocean on July 29, 2020. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aaron Sperle.
Pentagon planners insist the F-35 is the most lethal and survivable fighter ever built.
The F-35B that crashed in Texas is built to operate from amphibious ships and austere operating bases.
It’s capable of short-distance takeoffs and vertical landings.
Editor's note: This is a breaking story and Coffee or Die will continue to update it. This story was updated to report that a federal government pilot was in the cockpit of the crashed jet. It also was updated to link to social media footage that purports to show the crash. The article also was updated to add information about a previous mishap at the base in October.
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Carl Prine is a former senior editor at Coffee or Die Magazine. He has worked at Navy Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
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