Air Force Pilot Escapes F-35 Fire During Takeoff

F-35A_maintainersA U.S. Air Force pilot safely escaped from an F-35 fighter jet after it caught fire during takeoff Monday morning at a military base in Florida.

The pilot, who wasn’t identified, was preparing to conduct a routine training mission around 9:15 a.m. at Eglin Air Force Base, but aborted the exercise due to a fire in the back end of the Lockheed Martin Corp.-made F-35A Lightning II, according to a statement from the service.

The pilot was able to shut down the engine and escape from the plane unharmed. Emergency responders extinguished the fire with foam. The test plane was assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing, which trains F-35 pilots for U.S. and international forces.

“We take all ground emergencies seriously,” Navy Capt. Paul Haas, vice commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, said in the statement. “In this case, the pilot followed the appropriate procedures which allowed for the safe abort of the mission, engine shutdown, and egress.”

He added, “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.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire, where exactly it originated or how badly it damaged the aircraft, which cost more than $100 million apiece. The Air Force is still investigating the incident and pledged to release additional details as they become available.

One news report said the aircraft was “severely damaged” and “possibly destroyed.”

Spokesmen for Lockheed and United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit, which makes the F-35 engine, said they knew of the ground emergency involving the aircraft, but directed requests for additional information to the Air Force.

“We are aware of the incident at Eglin AFB yesterday involving an F-35A aircraft and Lockheed Martin is prepared to provide any assistance requested by the Air Force and the 33rd Fighter Wing,” Michael Rein, a spokesman for Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed, said in an e-mail.

“Pratt & Whitney stands ready to assist the 33rd Fighter Wing in its investigation,” Matthew Bates, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney military engines in East Hartford, Connecticut, said in an e-mail.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program is the Defense Department’s most expensive weapons acquisition program, estimated to cost almost $400 billion for a total of 2,457 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.

Developmental problems have kept the planes from flying in the past. Last year, the entire fleet was grounded after a crack was found on an engine turbine blade. More recently, test flights were reportedly stopped due to an engine valve fitting.

Operational flights of the aircraft are scheduled to begin next year. The Marine Corps’ version of the jet, called the F-35B, which can take off like a helicopter and fly like a plane, is set to reach the milestone by December 2015; the Air Force’s by December 2016 and the Navy’s by February 2019.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Buddy Berry

    In 58 or 59, Republic was testing the F-105 at Eglin. There was to be a fly-over Tyndall for Armed Forces Day. The civilian test pilot was late for the event and broke the sound barrier over Panama City at a fairly low altitude. The Air Force and Republic paid claims for broken windows downtown P.C. I have made efforts to get official reports of this, but no luck.

    • Mike

      Because that is so relevant to this story

      • KY gal

        Hey, it’s important to him…read 58 or 59! This is an elder so be respectful. One day you will have something from your past to share and maybe your audience won’t be so rude and hateful. Remember someone maybe whittling your wooden bowl as you read this!

        • B. Partain

          I see both sides on this but the gentleman was way off base with his comment… Mike doesn’t need to be such a smart ass though…. But this is the problem with all open comment internet stories…. anyone can say whatever they want…. But it is nice that you brought to the forefront that RESPECT for elders is essential for a society and on that level… We will all be in that position if we are lucky enough to survive the years of bs an trials and tribulations. Thx for saying it!

          • Duane Sterling Clark

            I’m Army infantry retired and disabled I’m 62 years old and when I get somebody that comes up to me and thanks me for my service because we serve and Mr. it makes me feel like I’ve really earned something makes me feel very proud of the service that I did and the country that I serve I wish more young people would have that kind of respect for the elders

        • Hunter76

          Interesting as Berry’s msg might be, anybody who is wildly off topic is likely to be flamed.They should expect it. Hard to prevent.

          • glenn57377

            I just stopped by to see what the comments were on this topic. I’m a retired vet, so I am on-line with the feelings. I CANNOT believe the flack being thrown around here because of a harmless comment coming from an elderly vet. Shame on anyone that is negative about it. Like a bunch of cackling hens. Some will read with interest. I did. Some will read some of it…..and if it is not your cup of tea, SKIP OVER IT AND MOVE ALONG. Quit acting like a bunch of liberals with nothing better to do than gripe.

      • Chuck Up

        Relax Mike.
        I liked to hear what BB said.

    • blight_

      Check the newspaper morgues, hit the microfiche at the library. Unsure if a FOIA will get you what you need.

    • olu

      I see both sides on this but the gentleman was way off base with his comment… Mike doesn’t need to be such a smart ass though…. But this is the problem with all open comment internet stories…. anyone can say whatever they want…. But it is nice that you brought to the forefront that RESPECT for elders is essential for a society and on that level… We will all be in that position if we are lucky enough to survive the years of bs an trials and tribulations. Thx for saying it!

      Read more: https://www.defensetech.org/2014/06/24/air-force-pilot
      Defense.org

      • blight_

        People are nice…until they meet someone who ran for politics. Then they’re often mean and vicious.

  • Lance

    Glad the pilot is OK and escaped unharmed.

    Shows the JSF is far from ready for use in active USAF squadrons.

    • Jay Gibbs

      Why would you say this has any bearing on the aircraft’s abilities for combat? There have been plenty such incidents for full-production, combat-ready aircraft over the years. This did not cause any undue concern about those types of aircraft. These ground emergencies also happened well before the F-35, that’s why there are standard emergency procedures already in place.

      As a for instance of just how bad things can go wrong on proven, full-rate production airframes, take a look at the USS Forrestal fire the occurred back in the ‘Nam. We almost lost an entire aircraft carrier over that little mishap. As it was, there were hundreds of dead and wounded sailors as a result. That was an A-4- a fighter that was at that time very popular, and very effective, and like the JSF- was also marketed as a “Swiss Army knife” to our allies, all over the world. A craptastic event occurred, a lot of good people died, and a capital ship was nearly destroyed- but we didn’t collectively throw our hands up in the air and started lamenting like women about how the A-4 was a colossal failure. That said, the Forrestal incident was a catalyst for a drastic change in how the Navy would deal with damage control issues ever since.

      If this is about bashing the JSF just because it’s new and different, then you’d best just get over it. The nation is too heavily invested in the program at this point to just cancel it. Not gonna happen. We have to put on our big boy pants, and fix what remains to be fixed, period.

      • blight_

        The A-4 incident was a safety lapse that was seriously enhanced by using unstable WW2-era bombs. As a consequence of post-WW2 demob, we lost all the sailors experienced in wartime damage control and they didn’t train their replacements in Korea or Vietnam on how not to do things and how to do proper damage control. It got out of hand.

        Platform faults will be platform faults. Human faults will be human faults.

    • tmb2

      For all we know the pilot tried to taxi with the parking brake on. Let’s wait and see what the investigators have to say.

    • glenn57377

      Ditto. No jet ever worth its salt didn’t have break-in modifications. You don’t build one of the best instruments of war in a day. Give it some time. With the thing costing $100 mil apiece, let them do it right. Also, the spinoff technology that comes with this type of engineering is worth a fortune to future military and civilian manufacturing.

  • Bernard

    “This comment has been deleted by the administrator.”
    You guys need to fix that.

    Regardless, this plane should not be bursting into flames. We paid $400 billion and they still don’t work. We need to scrap these things now.

    • R ryan

      Scrap them when we have the amount of money already invested ?. no fix the issues make it right and make it the best the world has or will see.

      • Bernard

        The F-35 is beyond fixing. The very concept of it was flawed from the start.

        • Jazz

          To much $ into it to stop now. Its so far ahead of its time it seems like

          • Sev

            So when you dig yourself into a hole you just dig deeper then? We’re going to reach hell before this aircraft is operational…or perhaps China.

          • Bernard

            The purpose of the F-35 was to reduce costs, not spend as much money as possible to produce the most ineffective weapon possible. While we’re busy trying to fix this plane, aircraft that actually work are being decommissioned. We’re spending our defense budget on a broken aircraft while our war veterans are suffering because the VA can’t give them proper health care.

          • Spanky

            Sounds like the same argument made over and over by people like you when the DoD develops a new weapon system. I remember clearly the naysayers lamenting how the M-1 Abrahms tank was a folly and we should just buy additional M-60s. How did that one turn out. Remember the F-15, F-16, and F-14 roll outs? The teething problems with the M-16 in Vietnam?

            Give the military and the weapons developers a chance to work through the bugs and I’m convinced an outstanding weapon system will be the final result.

          • blight_

            What were the complaints leveled against the M-1, asides from fuel economy?

            The Bradley had some problems early on, and luckily they were rectified before GW1.

          • William_C1

            Lets see. The notion that it’s a deathtrap in the face of modern Soviet weapons and the tank is dead due to ATGMs, I’m sure digging over old GAO documents you can find all sorts of cost issues and problems that would have the fools here shouting “KILL IT”.

          • blight_

            A post from a different blog identified a number of GAO documents on the XM-1: http://tanksandafv.blogspot.com/2014/03/gao-docum

            Should be fun lunchtime reading.

            Edit: I did see one GAO doc suggesting we use the Leopard. I am sure that went over well!

            I do note that the GAO doc mentions that its combat baptism of fire went well, but that all the other support vehicles had issues keeping up with it.

          • Bernard

            The M1 wasn’t a “cost reducing” do everything $400 billion dollar superweapon. The F-35 is being criticized because it has failed every single goal it was supposed to attain. Goals that were far too ambitious from the beginning failing to take heed to lessons learned for other failed multi-role fighter jet projects.

            Every project receives criticism, but few projects are complete failures like the F-35. $400 billion dollars is too much money, especially in our current economy when we can’t even provide vets proper health care at the VA.

            The F-15 and F-16 are both remarkable success stories. The F-14 was pretty good too. The M1 did the job but it’s still a fuel hog, and it still can’t do everything that we want it to do. It is remarkable in some ways and disappointing in others.

            Regardless, none of those projects were as ambitious as the F-35. Furthermore, the F-35 is being put into service just at a time when the air power strategy is changing and the approach to military aircraft development needs to change too. We are at that the dawn of the unmanned drone, drone technology allows us to make cheaper weapons that do more specific jobs better, with zero risk of servicemen casualties.

            That is the exact opposite of what the F-35 does. Before the F-16 is even retired, we will have specialized drones for every specific mission of the F-35. Those drones will do their jobs better and cheaper because they are purpose built for it. This is a paradigm shift in military weapons development and application. It is an entirely new way of thinking, and the F-35 is part of the old ways of thinking.

            The F-35 is the biggest failure in military weapons development history.

          • Makr

            Why? So, we can illegally invade more countries and kill 100s of thousands of innocent civilians?

      • afretwife

        It was a pisspoor concept from the start. There never has been a do-all airframe and never will be a do-all airframe. Its akin to using a F150 to pull a semi trailer. We have seen from hard knocks of the past that a do it all airplane doesn’t do anything worthwhile and is always a compromise, IE F-111 and others. We make great interceptors and bombers and electronic warfare planes and they have done a job that the ’35 just cant do TIme for the brass to stop kissing MIC’s butts and build a airframe for the mission at hand. Example the A-10 is a airframe made for a mission and no other has ever come close. Maybe we could use a few of the old prop jobs that could loiter for hours and carry a train load of ordnance. 100 million dollars for a ground support plane is totally insane.

        • Crew Chief

          Really you would even think a f150 would pull anything larger than a garden cart much less a semi trailer your judgment is flawed to begin with! The reason we are retiring the A10 is that the cost to operate and maintain is outrageous! The older the airframe the more likely it is to fail at the most inopportune time.

    • Curt

      Really? You think the US has paid $400 billion on the F-35 so far? Total development and procurement costs for over 2400 is projected to cost less than $400 Billion. So far, there are something like 100 delivered. Not even close to $400 Billion.

      • Bernard

        You’re right. If we cancel it now we may be able to stop before it gets to $400 billion. Unfortunately, even fires like these aren’t enough to stop this gravy train. Far too many wheels have been greased.

        • You must work for GE, because all your comments thus far are clueless and completely inaccurate! Sounds more like a little kid that was grounded!

          • Bernard

            Actually I am a US taxpayer who is tired of seeing my tax money going to failed weapons projects when there are so many other things that it could be better spent on. Now if the government were willing to give me a full refund of my personal tax contribution to this F-35 then I would be happy. Although I would certainly have to scrutinize that accounting to be certain that not a dime of my money funded it.

          • lol

            Sure thing, RAND

        • DTC

          Bernard, it sounds like you hate life in general.if your so disappointed with the f35, stop reading about it.

          • Bernard

            No, I absolutely love life. What I hate is having my tax money misspent on failed projects. See my response to Jay Thomas above.

          • Crew Chief

            If you are tired of seeing your tax dollars being wasted complain about all the government freebies that are given away that far exceeds the cost of this program.

      • Mark

        only 400 billion? o, that is such a budget price…how much is too much? 500? 600?
        it is ridiculous when one plan cost 100,000,000 dollars. This program is a farce.

    • TEX

      Oh wise one, how do you know that a maintenance troop do not get a fuel line loose?
      Many commenters here know about maintenance as a hog knows about Sunday!!!!!!

  • Happy to see that no one was injured. As with any new sophisticated machine, there will be growing pains. Every aircraft program has gone through this, the difference between this program and others is two fold, social media allows information to be disseminated widely and immediately, potentially creating a false sense that a major failure exists within the program, when in fact it may be an isolated event. Second, is the fact that this program has not completed flight test and they are flying production aircraft. While no military program really ever completes flight test, this program appears to be ahead of others with the number of aircraft produced and flown while the air system and its support functions are still in their infancy. So long has measures are taken to ensure safety is paramount, the program can proceed slowly. Situations such as this one, will be a reason to pause and ensure they are on the right track.

    • tekwyzrd

      ‘growing pains’?

      The contract was awarded in 1997, SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO. There is no excuse for the continuing increase in cost or inability to meet specs. The plane is a lemon. When the prototype went over budget by 50% Lockheed should have been eliminated. That should have been an indication the whole program would be massively over budget.

      I have to wonder if the whole F-35 program may be a cover for another ‘black’ project like the F-117.

      • Sonof

        I think you are closer to having a sixth generation complete, fully funded and tested. Before the F-35 is over! I think you are very close to the truth.

        • Dork

          Actually the contract was not awarded in 1997,the competition was narrowed to two contractors Lockheed and boeig.

      • blight_

        Presumably most of the R&D for stuff like DAS will go into the fighter after JSF. We’ve spent so much on getting ahead that it we’ll probably reap the benefits of being ahead until the technology becomes more commonplace.

        This is poor consolation for the sole deliverable that is the recipient of all that R&D money: the F-35.

    • True. I remember well the bad press and questions surrounding the F-16 when it was new (high loss rate, etc), and that was decades before instant gratification “social media” made everyone an expert and all opinions equally valid (not). The C-5 is another example of an aircraft that now serves an indispensable role in our military, and it had a pretty horrible development, roll out, and first decade or so in service. We in the AF didn’t call it FRED (F**king Ridiculous Economic Disaster) back then for nothing. This too shall pass.

      • dude

        Do you really want to compare to the c-5? Think about that… but then again maybe that’s a great analogy! Let’s not forget that th dod removed fire suppression equip from the pig to save a million per airframe.

        “The f35, just as good as the c5!”

        • Mark

          100,000,000 a plane vs what for the C5? Just as good but 100s of time more expensive

      • blight_

        Which points to a buy-first, fix-later model of procurement that has been in existence for decades.

  • Rod

    Glad that the pilot got out.

    Highly disconcerting that after all the costs overruns, this occurred with what should be the most simple variant of the aircraft – hope this is a minor wrinkle in a new system that needs to be ironed out. So Pratt & Whitney or Lockheed Martin is getting the bill for this right?

    • blight_

      I imagine if the X-35 had been pushed this long it would’ve encountered the same problems.

      If they wanted a program with less kinks, they would’ve tested the -135 and -136 in the F-16’s, then rolled out a underpowered JSF with F100’s with the plan to backfit the -135 and -136 later.

      The -135 is allegedly a little bigger (but also allegedly of similar mass) to the F100. I am unsure if putting the F100’s into JSF would’ve made the design work easier.

  • BlackOwl18E

    Yep, this thing is terrible. This is what happens when you lift the grounding too early on a plane not ready to fly. NAVAIR knows their **** and grounded the F-35B and F-35C when they discovered the new oil leak problem. They expected the F-35A to be grounded as well, but the USAF just kept charging ahead.

    On the bright side, the F-35 supporters are already under fire in congress and they are losing the arguments. We’ve simply spent too much already on this thing and it’s taking away from other big spending projects that the government has lined up as well as putting us in more debt. All of this is being done with little or nothing in return. I’m finally seeing a possibility where this thing will be killed off sometime before 2020, despite what everyone keeps saying about it being here to stay. It’s time to cut our losses and build a new aircraft, one that isn’t made through concurrency and is preferably built around a more specific mission and a specific service rather than trying to accommodate the needs of all three.

    • Blackadder

      OK, who are you and what have you done with the real Black Owl? You didn’t mention the Super Hornet once!

      The F35 is a flawed concept but I don’t think this fire has anything to do with that. And it isn’t going to be cancelled. Too big to fail now.

      • blight_

        BlackOwl exists in two states; either a “F-35 delenda est” state or a “Super Hornets are awesome” state.

        Sometimes he is both at the same time. But he is pretty consistent.

        • BlackOwl18E

          +1

      • Big- Dean

        “Too Big to Fail” = “Stupid is as stupid does”

        “Too Big to Fail”: = “It will only fail when the US runs out of money”

        “Too Big to Fail” = “Insanity. is doing something over and over again expecting different results” A. Einstein

        • Blackadder

          I didn’t say it wasn’t very, very, stupid :-)

        • tiger

          General Motors could have the same motto.

    • You might want to check your sources for information . . . because your statement about the grounding is inaccurate.

      • BlackOwl18E

        Enlighten me.

    • 16,000 hours and this is the first fire. The T-50 PAK/FA has had two major engine fires already. Tell me, are you calling for them to cancel the T-50? Do you think Putin is ready to throw in the towel. I think not. And you have no idea what caused the problem in the first place. Could be a maintenance error for all we know. Or like the guy above said, the pilot could have left the parking brake on. Who knows. F/A-18s have accidents all the time. I think it is time to cancel them too.

      • BlackOwl18E

        You know what the difference is between the F-35 and the PAK-FA? The PAK-FA will enter service and be fully combat operational in the 2016-2017 timeline. It’s taking about half the amount of time to reach completion as the F-35. The F-35 was supposed to be fully combat operational in about 2010. It’s now having its dates pushed back to something like 2015 for the F-35B, 2016 (I think) for the F-35A, and for the C-model it’s only going to reach IOC in 2019. The Russians started years later than us and they are going to finish at the same time, because we put our eggs in a basket that was poorly made in the F-35 program. The PAK-FA also doesn’t have nearly as many problems as the F-35.

        The Russians also said the recent fire was not damaging enough to destroy the aircraft. They plan on repairing it and putting it back into service.

        As for F/A-18’s having problems, none of the Super Hornet’s problems have been comparable in any scale to the problems of the F-35C. The Super Hornet never had any problems landing on a carrier. It didn’t have to accommodate the needs of the other services in its design. The Super Hornet was on time, on cost, and underweight. The problems were fixed quickly and cheaply. The Super Hornet is not the best at anything, but it’s good enough at everything and it’s cheap. The Navy disagrees with you and that’s why it’s kind of an open secret that they want more Super Hornets and wish they could back out of the F-35 program.

        • William_C1

          Fully operational by 2016-17? Hahaha! Maybe the Russians will say it’s “fully operational” by 2016 but it won’t be able to do much.

          What we know about PAK-FA’s problems include an engine or APU fire on one aircraft and rumors of some cracking issues. We also know that the Indians were recently quite pissed off at the Russians due to matters related to the PAK-FA. What we don’t know is a whole lot of things because the Russians are MUCH more secretive about the development of their aircraft. Doesn’t have nearly as many problems as the F-35 you say? Go ask the Russians to release the same degree of information that the US government publicly releases about the development of the F-35, then we’ll talk.

          • BlackOwl18E

            William, you’re the biggest joke on here right now. IOC can be declared regardless of the operational test results. Do you remember the Vanity Fair article a while ago? What you just said that the Russians would do with the PAK-FA is something that is pretty much guaranteed to happen to the F-35.

            The Russians may be secretive, but the Indians aren’t so much. We know that they were mad about the price of the PAK-FA (currently supposed to be slightly over $100 million a piece, which is still nothing compared to the F-35’s current price). The Russians are also jacking up the price on India to get what they can out of them. The Indians know this and they’re sick of it. They were mad about issues involving the design of their version and in particular it not incorporating enough of the changes that they wanted. They were also mad about the program being delayed by a year, resulting in their version being delayed as well.

            These issues are similar in nature to the F-35, but not even close in terms of scale. The PAK-FA was originally envisioned to enter service in late 2015, but that was pushed back by a little over a year. The F-35 is about eight years behind schedule and counting. The F-35 doesn’t have the software to carry out it’s mission. The B-version breaks apart in vertical flight. The C-model can’t land on a carrier after years of trying and delaying it’s sea trials. All of the JSF’s made sacrifices in speed and performance that make them inferior to current 4th gen fighters. The engines are leaking oil. This thing is a train wreck.

            Lastly, William, let’s just get down to what this is really about. You are acting scared ****less, basically lashing out with arguments at everyone on the debating forums. Every time you post something it only confirms to me one thing: The F-35 program is in danger again. So keep posting… because it only puts a big smile on my face. :)

          • William_C1

            Except the capabilities included in the software Blocks are known for the F-35, so we at least have some idea what IOC actually means for the aircraft.

            If the PAK-FA is currently supposed to be slightly over $100 million a piece, and the F-35A is about $100 million, do tell me how the PAK-FA’s price is “nothing compared to the F-35’s current price”. No doubt you’ll give the Russians the edge on O&M costs despite not knowing any of the details.

            According to the Indians there are “shortfalls… in terms of performance and other technical features.”, they are not impressed with the engines, angry that the Russians won’t share critical design info, and don’t like the price tag. But if you want to dismiss all of that go ahead. Despite the challenges we have faced with the F-35 and the challenges the Russians have already encountered you think the rest of their development of a 5th generation fighter is going to be trouble-free? If they want anything near the avionics setup of the F-35 it won’t be in service by late 2016.

            Eight years behind what schedule? Whatever original plan there was before they even selected the X-35? Reality happened and the program has been delayed but the greater part of development has already been completed. Carrier trials are STILL scheduled for this fall. No F-35B has broken apart in vertical flight. Inferior to what current 4th generation jets and where? It has it’s performance strengths and weaknesses compared to different 4th generation designs but overall you’re looking at something roughly between the F-16 and F/A-18. For when we need better than that we were supposed to have more F-22s.

            Oil leaks? That’s never happened before. BTW I have an old GAO report here about the original F/A-18 and the “train wreck” that was. Two test aircraft crashed, concerns if structural modifications to bulkheads will be adequate, fuel cell leakages, modifications to the wing required to correct roll-rate problems. Why… it’s almost as if all test programs uncover problems that need to be fixed. Maybe that’s why they do them?

            I’m not worried, the F-35 is going to happen, the question is how many will we get and I hope we get our money’s worth and a full 2,000+ versus some cut-down buy.

        • tiger

          So great yet has no buyers

  • Every new weapons system introduced into the inventory has its ‘growing pains’. I do not believe there as been one new A/C developed that hasn’t experienced its share of problems. Perhaps the B-2 may be an exception. Haven’t heard of any of them going down yet. (Perhaps that’s because I worked on it)
    Suffice it to say that as long as we keep pushing the envelope and technology, there are going to be glitches no matter what the cost. Also remember these Aircraft are built here in the USA. All of the cost for them is put right back into our economy thru jobs. The money doesn’t go into a hole in the ground. It keeps thousands of Americans employed.

    • afretwife

      Yes, we have lost B-2’s, one went down in Montana and one went down in Guam.

      • JohnnyRanger

        Where are you getting that a B-2 went down in Montana?

    • tekwyzrd

      ‘growing pains’?

      I’ll say it again: The contract was awarded in 1997, SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO. There is no excuse for the continuing increase in cost or inability to meet specs. The plane is a lemon. When the prototype went over budget by 50% Lockheed should have been eliminated. That should have been an indication the whole program would be massively over budget.

      • day

        You are right….. The Northrop version was the better plane, but politics plays too big a part in choosing our military equipment….. I did testing on equipment at Eglin AFB FL and it made no difference which item I determined to be the best,,,

        • blight_

          It felt like the -35 vs -32 contest was determined solely on STOVL capability. Sure, Boeing’s needed modifications between vertical flight variants and horizontal flight variants, but at least they put the internal weapons bays in. LM omitted them to produce a smaller aircraft. Then they put in the internal bays, had size and weight constraints and made them smaller on the -B. Argh.

        • The Northrup version – are you talking about the F-23? I liked the plane too, but your talking about the wrong figher program. The X-32, that competed against the F-35, was a Boeing aircraft, and that was truly a turkey.

      • actually the contract was awarded in DEC 2001, everything before that was contract demonstration aircraft and the X-32 lost to the X-35.

      • The Russians just finished a sub from over 20 years ago. At least we have over 100 F-35s. And the plane has flown 16,000 hours with this being the first accident. We lose F-15s, F-16s, and F/A-18s all the time. Literally hundreds of accidents have been racked up in these aircraft that you all love. When have you called them turkeys?

        • dale christopher

          We’ve invested so much time and effort in it that because we are America it became good no matter what. Might as well just take it now and keep trying to reduce cost and make it worker better and do more.

  • Michael

    What I understand is that the JSF’s fire-fighting system was removed to save weight and that the fluids in the hydrolic system are replaced by fuel, again to save weight. (And still the JSF is overweight). This means that the JSF is highly susceptible to fire. Not a very desirable characteristic for what is destined to be a single engine front line fighter. One rifle round fired from the ground damaging the hydrolic system will turn the JSF into a fire ball. So much for CAS!

    • SirSapo

      Using fuel as the fluid in an engine’s hydraulic system is not a new or dangerous idea. Many fighter engines, like the F414 for example, use “fueldraulics” to actuate nozzles and whatnot. The aircraft’s main hydraulic system uses standard fluid just in a non-standard way (self-contained actuators for the flight control surfaces). Hydraulic fluid is actually more flammable than jet fuel, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      • JohnnyRanger

        What happens when you run low on fuel???

        • SirSapo

          Well given that a typical large airliner (ie a 757) carries about 15 gallons of hydraulic fluid total (which is the equivalent of less than 100 pounds of jet fuel), I’d say that you’d have to be pretty damn low on fuel for a fighter type aircraft (with a much smaller supply) to not have enough to power a hydraulic system. F-16’s will rarely land with less than 1000 pounds of fuel remaining, so pretty much you’d have to flame out the engine in order to not have enough fuel to run the nozzle, in which case the nozzle won’t matter anyways…

    • Curt

      They removed the firefighting system in the internal weapons bays, not the aircraft primary firefighting systems. Which are pretty rudimentary to begin with, look at all the tactical aircraft that have been lost due to fires.

  • Ben

    Sure, every new program has accidents/malfunctions like this, but with a total cost of around $250 a pop it’s not nearly as acceptable…

    • Ben

      $250 million. Close enough ;)

      • As the planes are now at the $100 million mark coming off the line, you are both way off. Still too much, but if production ramps up, the cost would be lower.

  • F18 Techrep

    I worked on F18s when they first hit the fleet ( before any active fleet squadrons actually had them) I remember it seemed that every other week there were rumors od the program getting canceled… Cracks in the wheelwells, vertical stabs flapping like seagull wings under high AOA ect. Look at the aircraft now 40 years later and they are still building them and extending the flights hours. JSF will be no different than any other platform just have to work the bugs out. These (all aircraft) are all so complicated these days that it takes a while to get all the parts to play nice together.

    • I was a Marine with one of the first F18 squadrons at El Toro, started getting jets in early 83.

    • Spec Ops Chief

      FINALLY…an intelligent answer! What do you peole do all day…wait for the F-35 to fall out of the sky so you can say you were right??? Get a life! I am stationed here and see them fly every day…without falling out of the sky. There’s LOTS to learn, and a lot more flight hours required to learn them. There’s going to be failures… The F-4 Phantom failed SEVERAL times but became an avid fighter…so did the 15, the 16, the B1, the… Get a grip people!

      • Mark

        get a grip? 100,000,000 a plan…..we can feed the entire nation for that kind of money. what a waste of money.

    • movieman

      Get the bugs out this thing is so loaded with bugs it needs to be exterminated. Let’s see some of these bugs. It can’t fly as fast as the super hornet, doesn’t maneuver as well as the super and can’t pull as many G’s. One of its air to air missiles won’t fire from the plane
      ( no answer yet as to the reason) and the engines either fall apart or catch fire. Continue to up date the Super Hornet and get rid of this piece of junk that isn’t as good as the plane it supposed to replace and cost twice as much. Oh and development been going on for over 15 years. Kelley Johnson designed and built and had ready
      to fly SR71 in under two years.

      • William_C1

        Not to discredit the achievement that was the A-12 Oxcart and SR-71, but it wasn’t perfect by any means. 6 out of 15 A-12s were lost in crashes and 12 out of 32 SR-71s also crashed. There were a lot of risks and a lot which could go wrong which did. And the pilots of those aircraft were real experts.

      • Atomic Walrus

        There’a big difference between a special purpose (nearly experimental) aircraft and a production combat aircraft. You can do all kinds of things for a fleet of a couple of dozen aircraft that simply don’t work if you’re building hundreds or thousands. The Skunk Works built & tested the X-35 in a couple of years. They could’ve started building those and putting them into service, but I don’t think the price or support costs could ever have been considered acceptable.

  • afretwife

    What is the difference between a demokraptic senate bill and a F-35.
    There is NO difference, both were dreamed up by corrupt politicians and moonbeamers.

  • blight_

    The X-32 and X-35 are so unlike the final product that the final select was probably somewhat misleading. They should’ve given Boeing and Lockheed more time: One for LM to redo their -35 with internal bays, and then to give Boeing more time to work out their wing issues. LM’s fan would still have beaten Boeing’s classical system, but it would’ve forced some more design honesty up front…and perhaps caused Congress to wring its hands in despair instead of sinking so much money into the idea.

    The -35B won against the -32B in terms of lift, but clearly to get that lift it turned out to burn tarmac. I wonder if that caveat had been noted during the select phase…

    An amusing argument between -32 and -35 fanboys: http://www.f-16.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=12786

    Neither Boeing or LM was ready to make the F-16 replacement with the technology in hand at the time. But the military wanted a program to spend that money immediately, so they rushed into it, thinking starting early would save them time and money…nope.

    • Nadnerbus

      It seems like downselecting based on what is pretty much a hand built prototype airframe is a pretty bad way to decide which competitor will get the contract. At that point, over half the final design and integration for the end product hasn’t even been done yet. It would be like picking your next car based on the seeing the new body styling even though the engine, drive train, and electronics have yet to be designed and integrated.

      The military would probably do well to go back to the old X-plane type system where the new technology was hammered out first in a couple of purpose built technology demonstrators, instead of trying to get it all working in one brand new package from the get go.

    • Atomic Walrus

      There was a lot more to the down-select than demonstrator performance. Each of the competitors had to submit a detailed proposal like any other military project. That technical proposal was the basis of the down-select. The demonstrators were just that – technology demonstrators. They were intended to validate the concepts (e.g. shaft-driven lift fan, direct lift) more than produce a real aircraft. The demonstrators definitely did highlight some problems, not the least of which was that the Boeing design was going to have significant challenges in its V/STOL version. It’s also not a bad test of an engineering team. If you can’t work out the design for the demonstrator and build it on schedule, it may point to challenges in getting the bigger project done.

      • blight_

        In an alternate universe the Boeing team would’ve gone without internal bays and might’ve stood a better chance against Lockheed during the down-select. The LiftSystem was still a broadly better system. Both designs were hampered by a desire to keep the aircraft roughly F-16 sized.

        • Atomic Walrus

          I think Boeing took a lesson from the ATF competition, where the Lockheed/GD/Boeing team demonstrated a missile shot from the YF-22. The YF-23 had a weapons bay, but it was filled with test gear and did not include a launcher. After the ATF fly-off, the Air Force indicated that they felt the YF-22 was closer to a production design. I don’t think anybody forgot about that. Boeing already had a strike against them because they were going to need to redesign the wing & tail.

          • blight_

            Heh, I didn’t know that.

            Clearly LM was paying more attention to the DoD in both cases. During the F-22 case they were building a Cold War platform that was to fight, and thus a missile launch would’ve been of interest. But the JSF was to be three things at once with the same airframe…and Boeing didn’t quite measure up. And as a peacetime procurement, if LM didn’t go with an internal bay, perhaps it didn’t make sense to go with one either. Unfortunately they probably didn’t know what the X-35 was going to look like until it was too late.

            Edit: As an aside, it commonly comes up that someone will say that government always changes the specs as the last minute. In support of that (in regard to the F-22/F-23 flyoff):

            “The USAF initially required the aircraft to land and stop within 2,000 feet (610 m), which meant the use of thrust reversers on their engines. In 1987, the USAF changed the runway length requirement to 3,000 feet (914 m), so thrust reversers were no longer needed. This allowed the aircraft to have smaller engine nacelle housings. The nacelles were not downsized on the prototypes”

    • William_C1

      I agree with you blight that it would have been smart to have both companies develop their aircraft into a more finalized form. The issue is money and how do you convince politicians to pay for it when they know in the end only one design will be bought. That’s always a challenge.

      • blight_

        The other problem with that is both companies would love to make the US government absorb the expense of R&D. We suffer through this with the LCS.

        Tech was immature and so was fighter technology. Prototyping DAS on a X-series aircraft would have been the way to go before having the competition.

  • tekwyzrd

    “It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire, where exactly it originated or how badly it damaged the aircraft, which cost more than $100 million apiece.”

    The most recent F-35s that were delivered were priced at $207 million each. While “more than $100 million apiece” is correct, this number downplays the actual cost and loss associated. A $207 million plane should NOT just ‘catch fire’.

    • neither should my $40K truck . . .

    • That’s not the USAF figure. They are running in at around $100 million according to current contracts.

      • For that price to be invisible is worth it. Is a flying computer:))))

  • hibeam

    Shot down on the runway. The greatest humiliation in aviation.

    • William_C1

      So when that PAK-FA caught fire a few weeks ago that was just all part of the Russian plan right?

    • You are so lame hibeam. This isn’t near the greatest humilitation. Take-off aborts happen all the time, often ending in fires.

      • hibeam

        My sources tell me he was forced down and strafed by a Cherokee 150.

        • dale christopher

          I understand the F-35 doesn’t look as good as SOME new aircraft but this plane is designed to do many things and SURVIVE in a world where GREAT FIGHTER PLANES LIKE THE F-22 ALREADY EXIST. Sorry for all caps but I have to stress this. The more I see the F-35 the better I’m convinced it looks.

  • retired462

    There is no way that the F-35 can replace the A-10! Why don’t the generals that are supposed to take care of the troops on the ground admit it. I guess that a PAC job means more to them. Shame on them. The generals that were around more than 50 years ago, must be losing sleep over the new breed. I am sure Curtis Lemay would not approve! Time to put the lives of these young people over money in the pocket!

    • dale christopher

      Summary- F-35 + F-22=So good it makes the A-10 pointless.
      Increase in ordinance power, more technologically advanced delivering packages, speed of missiles, and accuracy should make the F-35 in any A or B or C configuration far superior to the A-10 over long term. Especially in an air environment controlled by the F-22. The F-35 has more longevity in the air, so it can follow ground forces further in and get there sooner to help out, and it loiters in the air for a longer period of time if necessary. Not to mention if SAM’s are encountered, or enemy air resistance in the form of fighters the F-35 is far more survivable than the A-10 and we are looking to the future with force variability. I’m not saying the A-10 isn’t a great plane but it’s ability to take a hit is fading and a mass produced force with wide capability is really good due to numbers and the F-35 is a good bit better at the A-10s job and remember the A-10 is a highly specialized plane specialization like that is expensive to maintain. I’m looking for a large flying wing shaped drone carrier mothership quite frankly.

      • S.Evans

        The A-10’s gun can cut an APC in half and flame a main battle tanks engine and hole the top of the turret and back deck. Can the F-35 do that and survive the income ground fire that A-10’s typically shrug off?

        A say KEEP the A-10, maybe even improve it alittle, but keep it a low altitude adjunct to the F-35 but under US Army control to support armored defense and assault. We cut that cake at 14k feet ASL or so and anything that flys tactical air under that altitude is the Army’s (Attack choppers, AC-130’s, A-10’s, etc) and let the Air Force do the heavy tactical bombing from altitude as well as their air superiority and strategic missions.

        • blight_

          Unfortunately, the military is minimizing the number of platforms it keeps handy. The Navy’s flight deck used to have a diverse number of platforms; and now this downsizing is finally making its way to the air force.

          The A-10 is vulnerable to missiles. It was rated to take a great deal of punishment, but it’s easier to design an aircraft that can take damage from small shells versus larger missiles. Even a quick read of Kim Campbell’s citation reads

          “During her recovery from the weapons delivery pass, a surface-to-air missile impacted the tail of Captain Campbell’s aircraft. ”

          I would note that missile took her aircraft out of the fight. We focus on her amazing recovery, but the air force seems to think that the A-10 is no longer invulnerable in its niche. I will note that enhancing the jamming capability of the A-10 might help here.

        • tiger

          Except 12 years of war are over. You not facing any tanks & those that are there do not need a gun to kill them. The A-10 cult needs to stop crying.

  • Big-Dean

    Ok, we can see that the F-35 mafia is on Defcon 1, ready to defend the pig, and they will say the following

    “Fire are a normal part of development, we can expect that to happen…”

    or

    “The new code dump will fix this little fire problem…”

    or

    “Every new plane catches on fire, that’s normal…”

    or the best for last

    “The F-35 is SO advanced and SO sophisticated that it is gained a level of intelligence and this little fire thing is a normal part of it becoming self-aware…”

    • 16,000 flight hours and this is the first accident. Name the 4th generation aircraft with a record like that?

    • dale christopher

      LOL this dude is mad funny! I’m not surprised with the way Americans view they can treat A.I. without any consequences that one of the first self-aware computers would try to kill itself!

  • L. Hildreth

    To comment on a previous commenters statement.
    The F-35 was not designed, nor claimed to be a vertical takeoff aircraft.
    It is a short takeoff and has vertical landing capability.
    I’m sure there will be times when in an emergency, pilots will try a vertical landing
    if it will be better than other alternatives.

    • The F-35B is a STOVL aircraft, designed for short take off and vertical landing, not sometimes if I need it vertical landing. That is the only way is can land on a ship, as it does not have a tail hook!

    • YoTurkish

      Right, well if it vertical take-off or landing wasn’t important then they should’ve built it like a proper conventional fighter instead of building a wide porky-pie airframe for the massive, unnecessary lift fan. If they didn’t blow the design for STOVL capability, then we’d have have an actual 5th generation fighter that would actually have a chance at successfully completing a mission against an adversary that is armed with aircraft more modern than a MiG-19.

      Oh well. As long as the Marines have their cute STOVL party trick to show off in recruitment ads then they’re more than happy to be flying an aircraft that struggles to meet 4th generation performance standards.

  • Jack Revere

    I think these awesome weapons are too advanced for the pilots. More training is needed.

    • blight_

      Unsure how more “pilot training” can address fires.

      • dale christopher

        We need pilots that can handle stronger G-forces. These things are freaking fast.

  • Buster101

    wasn’t there a story not long ago about the oxygen system on the F-35 causing pilots to black out, and 1 air force pilot refused to fly a mission and was grounded by the base commander for refusing to fly it, something along that line anyway, plus the A-10 being decommissioned, a big mistake when it’s primary mission of troop ground support is suited to the situation in Iraq right now; wish there was more common sense in mission planning & not just $s & cents!

    • You Einsteins don’t even know what aircraft you are talking about!! That was the F-22 genius, read more, comment less!

      • ronaldo

        I agree. Too many uninformed opinions voiced here. No knowledge at all of the aircraft they are slagging.

        • oblatt22

          In all the arguments with F-35 supporters once you get past the brochure specs, the “if only we pour enough money to build a new aircraft to fix the problems” once you get past all the excuses – it always ends up that they believe in Santa Clause

          Every single time.

    • oblatt22

      Different plane, same disaster same bunch of criminals.

  • oblatt22

    And here we see the payoff of removing those emergency fuel valves – once a fire starts thats the end.

    F-35 pilots are are advised to check for bacon in case their pig is on fire.

  • RiverRat

    I bet if you got the old Skunk Works crew working on this (you know the same geniuses that made the most amazing aircraft from scratch) they would get it done in a timely manner and under budget. Plus with all the new technology they get to play with, they’d have a hay day.

    • blight_

      Unsure if the Old Skunk Works guys could’ve tackled the issue of complex avionics. They could design aircraft, but they are not demigods.

      At a minimum, KJ would’ve quickly realized that the weight specs on the JSF would call for considerable bloat. He would’ve made many of the same choices to save weight, since many Skunk Works prototypes had to resort to similar weight savings measures. Many U-2, A-12 and SR-71 design quirks come from compromises that had to be made in the name of performance.

      DAS has distracted Lockheed et al from the traditional teething problems that come with new aircraft designs. If anything, it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

      • RiverRat

        True they are not demigods, but I would beg to differ that in fact these guys could handle complex avionics, esp if they stayed current with their understanding of it all. Have you ever looked up the control’s for the X-15? It will prove my point regarding their ability to deal with complex avionics (something taken for granted these days seeing that a computer algorithm can run many sophisticated systems and self adjust on the fly without the pilot making physical adjustments) . My main point is that it seems during the Skunk Works development of the ‘X’ planes these guys built with a passion and given nearly complete autonomy over their projects thus allowing them to create from their imagination. Too much micro-managing, politics and greedy pockets these days.

        • Guest

          X-15 was built by North American not Lockheed or Martin.

          • blight_

            And the X-planes were presumably built with a great deal of NASA (National Aeronautics…) assistance.

            I am surprised NASA does not return to the first A and help the Air Force, which seems to need more engineering assistance these days.

  • Han Solo

    Someone left the gas cap off… DUH

  • Dig-Dean

    We had a little jodi we used to sing about the F-35 back while I was in AOCS, it went like this

    “JP-5 sticks to pigs, watch them sizzle, watch them fizz
    the Junk Strike Fighter is a mighty fat pig
    fire up the engines and watch it sizz
    ’cause LockaMart’s got a long term gig
    the air force don’t realize what they did
    when they stuffed this pig
    JP-5 sticks to pigs, watch them sizzle, watch them fizz…”

    • William_C1

      Yeah, doesn’t the USAF use JP-8? Nice try though.

  • metfanlou

    “Hey Joe, do you know where you left the warranty on that 100 million dollar F35. I really, really need it?” “Nah, I normally just throw all that paperwork away, but I may have registered it on line. I Just don’t remember.” “Oh crap!”

  • hibeam

    The flaming F-35. Yet another variant.

  • Wayne

    One cannot blame the aircraft until the cause is determined with certainty. The problem could be a maintenance issue, foreign object damage or a myriad of other things not necessarily related to the design or manufacture. Until then the accusations are all based on assumption. I, for one, will wait for the results of the investigation before throwing the rotten tomatoes.

  • key rob e

    hey the 1940 ford the p51 that my capt friend bill o flu the f84 r was it f86 s f15 r16 now they were and the p40 now they were planes just ask capt bill o ha

    • blight_

      You forgot the link to Coach bags.

  • hibeam

    The Marine Corps’ version of the jet can take off like a helicopter fly like a plane and destroy the viability of the entire program like a cross eyed weasel.

    • blight_

      Size and weight budget given to the JSF program is what killed this thing.

      Perhaps we should’ve just had JSF as a two-engine program, and replace F-15 and F/A-18. Maybe a heavy fighter can STOVL from a marine amphib, but if not you could just scale it down.

      But noo, we’re stuck with trying to squeeze everything into something light-fighter sized. Terrible idea.

  • Mark

    The F-35 is happening. The F-35C now makes arrested landings upto and including maximum sink rates. The Harrier pealed concrete. So if the F-35B peals concrete it is just maintaining status quo. The helmet queuing system for the F-35 will be used.

  • YoTurkish

    Pile of junk, but this is already common knowledge to the entire rest of the world.

    It would be better to cancel this program while there’s still a chance to recover from this enormous blunder and then refocus on building a proper 5th generation fighter can actually meet the requirements for modern warfare. Or at the very least, we should be able to make a fighter that can exceed the capabilities of vintage Cold War era 3rd & 4th generation fighters.

    • tiger

      It took 20 years to get this far. Not happening…

  • HeavyArrow

    I think people fail to realize that:
    Planes have the ability to catch fire. They will catch fire from time to time.
    I also think that there is a group who just follow F-35 news waiting for something bad to happen so they can harp about how bad it is.
    It’s still in testing. Of course there will be incidents.

  • TED

    WE already have the f-22′ the most deadly fighter in the world. I’d like to see us buy more of them. Any fool knows that no single aircraft can do all tasks required of them but what do I know I just sweep the floor and run the elevator. the Old Sarge

    • tiger

      Hype…. The F-22 has done jack zero. It’s buggy as well.

  • This makes one wonder why the AFTI-16 was never put into production? As well as why nobody thought we could use a low cost, low maintenance cost, but excellent performing aircraft like the F-20?

  • tiger

    I bet General Motors will issue a recall on the F35……