Albuquerque F-35 Crash: Alarming Questions About the Fighter Jet Program’s Future

Albuquerque F-35 Crash: Alarming Questions About the Fighter Jet Program's Future
Credits: @NavyLookout / X

On May 28, 2024, a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II crashed shortly after takeoff from runway 21 near Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ/KABQ), New Mexico. The pilot, who successfully ejected before impact, was hospitalized with serious injuries but is currently in stable condition.

The aircraft, a developmental F-35B model, was on a delivery flight conducted by Lockheed Martin. Reports suggest that the crashed jet might be the TR3 & Bk4 test aircraft with the Bureau Number 170052 and construction number BF-154.

Lockheed Martin confirmed that the aircraft was en route from Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base in California. The jet had stopped at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque for refueling and crashed shortly after resuming its flight. The pilot was transported to UNM Hospital following the ejection.

The crash has brought attention to the F-35 program, which, despite facing criticism for its cost and efficiency, maintains a strong safety record.

The F-35 program, the largest and most expensive military acquisition in history, has a total cost of around $2 trillion. The F-35 jets serve as the first line of defense for the U.S. and its allies. The F-35B model involved in this crash has a price tag of approximately $145 million.

Despite its high costs and occasional setbacks, the F-35 program continues to play a crucial role in modern military aviation. The incident near Albuquerque underscores both the inherent risks of high-performance aircraft development and the robust safety measures in place to protect pilots.

As investigations into the crash continue, the aviation community remains focused on the lessons learned to further enhance the safety and performance of the F-35 Lightning II and other advanced military aircraft.

The F-35 Lightning II has experienced several crashes since its introduction. Here is the list of the notable incidents:

June 23, 2014 – An F-35A caught fire on the runway at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, due to an engine failure. The pilot escaped unharmed​ (Fighter Jets World)​.

September 28, 2018 – A US Marine Corps F-35B crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina. The pilot safely ejected, and the crash was attributed to a faulty fuel tube​ (Fighter Jets World)​​ (Wikipedia)​.

April 9, 2019 – A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A crashed into the Pacific Ocean off northern Japan. The pilot was killed, and the cause was determined to be spatial disorientation​ (Fighter Jets World)​.

May 19, 2020 – An F-35A from the 58th Fighter Squadron crashed while landing at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. The pilot ejected safely​ (Wikipedia)​.

September 29, 2020 – A US Marine Corps F-35B collided with a KC-130J during air-to-air refueling over California. The F-35B pilot ejected and survived, while the KC-130 made an emergency landing​ (Wikipedia)​.

January 24, 2022 – A US Navy F-35C crashed while attempting to land on the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea. The pilot ejected, and the aircraft was later recovered from the ocean​ (USNI News)​.

October 19, 2022 – An F-35A crashed near Hill Air Force Base, Utah, due to issues in the air data system. The pilot ejected safely​ (Fighter Jets World)​.

December 15, 2022 – An F-35B crashed during a failed vertical landing at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. The pilot ejected on the ground without serious injuries​ (Fighter Jets World)​.

September 17, 2023 – A US Marine Corps F-35B went missing after the pilot ejected during a training flight over South Carolina. The debris was found the next day​ (Al Jazeera)​.

These incidents highlight the complexity and risks associated with the F-35 program, which, despite its challenges, continues to be a critical component of modern military aviation.

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