on Sept. 29, 2020, at approximately 16.00LT a U.S. Marine Corps Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II, callsign VOLT 93 made contact with a Lockheed KC-130J Hercules (166765) callsign RAIDER 50 during air-to-air refueling. The F-35B pilot successfully ejected and the aircraft crashed. The KC-130J made a forced gear-up landing in a carrot field near Thermal, California.
The pilot of the STOVL (Short Take-Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II jet ejected safely and, according to the USMC, is being treated. All the KC-130J crew members have been reported safe.
The KC-130J was attached to the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352 (VMGR-352) out of MCAS Miramar, California.
Photos of the aircraft show substantial damage to the no. 3 and 4 engines; all propeller blades had separated. The refueling pod mounted between engines no.3 and 4 had separated.
The accident’s cause is under investigation.
The incident comes nearly two years after a similar but fatal incident involving Marine aviators off the coast of Japan.
Five crew members of a KC-130J tanker and the pilot of an F/A-18 Hornet died during the nighttime training mission on Dec. 6, 2018. The Hornet collided with the Super Hercules during a refueling operation.
The Hornet’s weapons officer was the sole survivor. Both aircraft were based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.