F-35A damaged by fire at Eglin AFB

written by australianaviation.com.au | June 24, 2014
An F-35A at Eglin AFB. (Lockheed Martin)
An F-35A at Eglin AFB. (Lockheed Martin)

An F-35A of the 33rd Fighter Wing based at Eglin AFB in Florida has been extensively damaged by fire after an aborted takeoff.

The aircraft, which is assigned to the Integrated Training Center (ITC) at Eglin was about to participate in a training mission as one element of a two-ship formation when the takeoff was aborted due to a fire in the rear of the aircraft. The pilot was able to stop the aircraft and escape with no injuries.

“We have a robust and extensive training program in which every pilot and aircraft crew member is trained in order to respond quickly and correctly in the event emergencies occur,” US Navy Capt Paul Haas, the 33rd Wing vice commander said in a statement to USNI News. “In this case, the pilot followed the appropriate procedures which allowed for the safe abort of the mission, engine shutdown, and egress.”

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As a result of the fire, all F-35A flights have been suspended. “Safety is paramount, and all F-35A flight operations have been temporarily suspended at Eglin as they investigate the nature of the incident,” a JSF Program Office spokesman said.

A brief statement to USNI News from Lockheed Martin read; “We are aware of the event at Eglin AFB today involving an F-35A aircraft. The aircraft is in the very capable hands of the 33rd Fighter Wing. Lockheed Martin informed the wing that we are available for assistance upon request.”

All F-35s were grounded for a short period earlier this month to allow for inspections following an oil leak on a USMC F-35B ay MCAS Yuma in Arizona, but all but three aircraft were cleared to return to flight within a couple of days.

The RAAF has 72 F-35As on order, the first two of which are scheduled to be rolled out in July and commence training with a USAF unit at Luke AFB early next year.

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19 Comments

  • Lazybones

    says:

    What a lemon. Lets hope we never have to engage the Indonesian military SU-27/30 for combat.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Well, it took a couple of days, but we’ve finally got the first contribution to be expected from the F-35 naysayers.

    Lazybones, how about making an effort to find out the truth for yourself instead of this uninformed and ill-conceived nonsense and desisting from such ridiculous comments.

  • RustedHalo

    says:

    As soon as I hear a word like robust in a sentence I assume HEAVY involvement by the PR spin doctors.

  • RustedHalo

    says:

    And speaking of PR companies, hello Raymond!

  • Raymond

    says:

    I am neither part of, nor associated with, any PR company whatsoever. Just maybe you shouldn’t assume things…

    What I am though, is tired of comments from people with their heads in the sand. Every time I hear the word ‘lemon’ in relation to the F-35, it’s a case of ‘here we go again’. All they’re doing is demonstrating their ignorance and total lack of understanding of modern capabilities and strategy.

    The Government and the RAAF already know they’ve made the right / best choice. Ever wondered that perhaps the reason is because it’s simply a no-brainer? I understand that the F-35 has been subjected to the most assessment of any aircraft procurement Australia has made, perhaps even of any defence procurement to date full stop. Both the Government and the RAAF have said it’s the obvious and most suitable choice for us. Surely you don’t really think they are willing to risk such a hugely important thing as Australia’s future air combat capability and around $15 billion on a flimsy premise? Claiming so would be a long bow to draw.

    Excuse the cliché, but the Lightning is a game-changer for the warfighter. Get past the drivel of the F-35 naysayers and read up on the reality. I’m sure that the F-35, once it has had all its problems ironed out, similar to other cutting-edge acquisitions in the past, will prove to be a winner, and the anti-F-35 brigade will have to eat their words.

    Finally, have just a little bit of faith that the USAF, USN and USMC, the RAF / RN, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore (likely), South Korea and Turkey as well as Australia aren’t all a bunch of morons spending billions upon billions on something inferior and risking their respective air power and national security for decades. If that formidable and respectable list of customers hasn’t made an impression, please read it again! All of them have it wrong? I think not.

  • David

    says:

    Agreed Raymond. Every new aircraft has its bugs. More so with the very complex systems like the F-35. Look how long the F-11 took to come good and them be a world beater.

    Lazybones why make simplistic and silly comments? You just look ignorant.

    Aviation is about not making judgements until we have evidence.

    An Su-35 will be shot in the face long before it ever sees an F-35.

    One minute fat dumb and happy next minute your wingman goes WHOOMP and evaporates…

    That sort of thing can give one pause…

  • David

    says:

    Of course I meant F-111. My laptop is going back to the SPO…

  • Darren

    says:

    The Naysayers are as bad as the Cheerleaders. Neither are willing to look at the true state of the program or aircraft.

    Just a point or two.

    There was no competitive evaluation of alternatives, so it’s evaluation is not as robust as claimed. They still would have picked it, but still there is no comparison to benchmark our selection.

    Evidence is great in aviation. Please read the reports into the program. Huge potential balanced by a long road to go to achieve.

    An F-35 might be hard to see on Radar, but don’t discount the IR of the Su-35, or the persistence in weapons or fuel. That first shot had better count as the F-35 has only one more missile.

    Yes this will be a good aircraft when the bugs are sorted and it works as promised, even if it is much more expensive than first planned. It’s no lemon, but it isn’t perfect either.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Darren,

    1. I am well aware of the problems with the program. Facts are, this aircraft is extremely capable, will be very successful, the US will make it happen, there is no going back now, and have you heard of determination, persistence and overcoming all of the issues and bugs that will inevitably happen to pull complex programs such as this together?

    2. You’ve shot yourself in the foot by admitting that ‘they still would have picked it’. Why waste extra time and money then? Actually, the Government and RAAF have evaluated it (as I said in an earlier comment, the F-35 has been subjected to the most assessment of any aircraft procurement Australia has made); it’s just that there was no ‘fly-off’ competition, likely because this would have been simply unnecessary.

    3. Pretty much anything worthwhile has a long road before it.

    4. The biggest ‘problem’ with the F-35 I can see is the fact that so much is classified, it is impossible for those in the public domain and not privy to all its features and ability to be able to have a ‘real’, informed debate. If you read the parliamentary committee reports, it will become clear that those ‘in the know’ have a great deal of confidence in the F-35 but for obvious reasons are unable to explain exactly why this is. Also read what the pilots have to say; together it’s not difficult to deduce that any air force acquiring the F-35 is onto a very good thing.

    5. Allowing for inflation it is a fallacy that the cost of the F-35 in later production lots will be ‘much more expensive than first planned’.

    6. Of course it isn’t perfect, nothing is, but I can tell you that it’s the best option there is.

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      Raymond

      This article is several months old (April). You will also notice I have deleted the body text from the article that you posted, as The Australian is a pay site and we are not in the business of reproducing someone else’s material from behind a pay wall.

      Cheers

      Andrew

  • TonyBeee

    says:

    I recall the issues with the F-111C. Having said that the A and B variants were already in use and Australia made the wise decision not to use it as a multi-roled fighter/bomber and keep it as a strike/reconnaisance platform to replace the Canberra.

    The issue I have with this is purely political. I run a business that invests in plant and equipment and upgrades every so often depending on the gear. We were told we have a Budget Emergency! Well anyone studying Business 101 can tell you that during budgetary crises, unless the investments are already made you don’t go out buying new kit especially stuff that hasn’t really been tried and tested, Within 24 hours of the budget being handed down we see 12 Billion spent on the JSF… This is during a so called Budget Emergency??? Sorry guys we should stick to the Super Hormet for a whie if thats the case.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Andrew – respect what you’ve said, however I’m not a paid subscriber and somehow I managed to view the complete article. I thought this article had some very apropos remarks from respected sources that are still very relevant and only two months old.

  • Raymond

    says:

    TonyBeee – if you had read the press releases and news reports at the time, you would know that the F-35 funding is NOT new spending!

    Asked if he was worried taxpayers would question the cost of the program at a time his Government was warning of wide-ranging cuts (this was pre-budget, on 23/04/14), Mr Abbott responded: “I want to stress that this is money that has been put aside by government over the past decade or so to ensure that this purchase can responsibly be made. This is not new spending today. In the context of a tough budget, this is spending money that we need to spend that has been sensibly put aside in the past to ensure that our nation’s defences remain strong.”

    Your claim this is political is also incorrect. The F-35 has bipartisan support. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has backed the purchase and said to Radio National, “It was Labor who believed that the Joint Strike Fighter was an appropriate addition to our air power. There had been some problems in terms of aspects of the aircraft but it appears that they have been ironed out.”

  • stuart

    says:

    I just keep seeing F104 star fighter written all over the jsf …. sorry

  • Darren

    says:

    Raymond

    1 As you are well aware the program has had problems. Such problems as the aircraft failed to meet specification on acceleration and turn. So the specifications were rewritten to suit the aircraft. Who’s to say this precedent will not be used if the software just doesn’t make it? No one can yet guarantee it will work. No one. They are doing their best.

    2 I didn’t shoot myself in the foot, The program to select a replacement was not full and transparent in failing to see a proper evaluation of competing airframes. I think the RAAF had it’s heart set on the jet right from the get go and would have selected it even with a fly off. Due diligence with public funding was not achieved. Would we not demand it if they were building a new parliament house to see competing tenders?

    3 So you will be prepared to accept a substandard item with the promise that at some stage in the future the contractor will make good on his original contractual obligation, or re negotiate should it not be possible to meet that contractual obligation? The time frame for this is at present slipping with no firm date of completion. You wouldn’t buy a car like that, you shouldn’t buy a fighter jet like that either. We parked the F-111’s till they sorted it out and this is no different. Get the contractor to make it work.

    4 As so much of the jet is classified no one will ever know if it truly works. But lets examine the ‘in the know’. A politician is hardly going to raise his hand and say we got it wrong. The RAAF are not likely to do the same. Pilots of the jet are not always free to break ranks and talk openly about an aircraft. They have a vested interest and objectivity is required. Independent audits will be our only chance of revealing the truth. The confidence in the aircraft is based on the performance of the software, a truly stunning element, yet this is potential as yet unrealized. Let’s hope it gets there.

    5 The original objective of the program was to attain a price comparable with late teen fighters in both purchase and maintenance. So in that event it has a large gap to close. And you can still buy a Hornet or Falcon today using the same money as you would a Lightning II, so it is easy to make a direct comparison. Let’s also look at the cost to buy as we have. Simply waiting longer to meet full rate production when the aircraft has completed, or almost completed development, would have been a smart option in a tight budget. And the fighter ‘gap’? Either lease more Supers (aka Phantoms) or live with it.

    6 It may not be perfect, but again it’s a long way from getting close to spec.

    Basically I am so very tired of the cheerleaders who overlook the issues and champion the cause. What they should be doing is demanding the contractor perform, that the best way to silence the naysayers is to get runs on the board. That 48 states of the union have congressmen tied to a jobs program extended into partner nations, a sure fire way to ensure continuation leads to conflicts of interest. That concurrency is not a good idea. That IOC for the USMC is likely a year late on software development. That training is limited as the performance envelope of the aircraft is still being expanded. This is a program that has been poorly structured in so many ways and this has significantly contributed to difficulties of a complex aircraft. One day if all goes to plan this will be a good aircraft. But right now it is a dogs breakfast being cleaned up. And I for one would never, ever be allowed to do business this way with the boss’ money.

  • Lazybones

    says:

    @Raymond ” how about making an effort to find out the truth for yourself ”

    I have, which is why I still call it a lemon. This programme is heading the same way as the F-22, at this rate its going to get cancelled well before it fulfils it 2400+ commitment to the US. Are you still going to defend this failure then? Even the UK are talking about pulling out, by your definition above ” just a little bit of faith that the USAF, USN and USMC, the RAF” that would confirm its an overpriced POS.

    I think maybe you should take your head out of the sand and look at why the programme is failing. There is plenty of rhetoric from the US about just how great F-35 is. This plane is no game changer! And lets not forget Lt. General Chris Bogdan admission that the following statement is true:-

    “The Pentagon’s newest fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II, has an embarrassing problem. Despite its name, it can’t fly within 25 miles of a lightning storm for fear of exploding.”

    As a tax payer I have every right to my opinion on this matter if you like it or not.

    @David

    “Lazybones why make simplistic and silly comments? You just look ignorant.
    Aviation is about not making judgements until we have evidence.
    An Su-35 will be shot in the face long before it ever sees an F-35.
    One minute fat dumb and happy next minute your wingman goes WHOOMP and evaporates…”

    OMG!! You simply have no idea about BVR vs WVR combat do you! And you say I look ignorant. To put it simply for you the vast majority of air kills are WVR. The F-35 cannot out turn or out run an Su-35. That is fact. And if you think well its Stealth they’ll never see it coming. Try telling that to Lt. Col. Dale Zelko who was shot down in Serbia by the very radar system his F117 was supposed to evade. And he wasn’t the only F117 to be hit!

    • australianaviation.com.au

      says:

      OK folks – like all F-35 threads we’re keeping a close eye on this one. Any sign of disrespect or ‘he said, she said’ style commentary, and it’ll be shut down like so many F-35 threads before have been!

      Play nice please!

      Cheers

      Andrew

  • BH

    says:

    I wonder how Boeing would have gone if the X-32 was selected for development..?
    Like the F-22 and the F-35, it too would have been heavily dependent on software. Are the manufacturers jumping too far ahead and biting off more than they can chew by promising all of these high tech yet largely unproven capabilities..?

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