F-35A “Explodes” in New USAF Video Promoting Teamwork: Is the Messaging Off?

A new video released by the 2nd Audiovisual Squadron at Hill AFB parodies a burning F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. (Photo: via YouTube/DVIDS)

Confusing New Teamwork PSA May Send Wrong Message About Joint Strike Fighter Program.

An official U.S. Air Force video that, “Communicates information about the agencies available on base that are provided to help Airmen with various circumstances” has been released that shows an F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter bursting into flames in an apparent attempt at levity. The aircraft in the video is not actually burning, but the inference is that the F-35A bursts into flames and explodes as the pilot casually walks away as firefighters try to extinguish fire (from hot brakes).

The video, produced by the 2nd Audiovisual Squadron at Hill AFB, where the F-35A Lightning II is based, “Uses humor to illustrate how Airmen play a critical role defending the nation, but that the Air Force also recognizes no one can perform at maximum capacity at all times” according to official descriptions published on May 3, 2019 on the Hill Air Force Base website and distributed via the DVIDSHub.net (Defense Video Information Distribution Service).

An Air Force audience is seen reacting to the new video that parodies imagery of a an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter catching fire and exploding at Hill AFB. (USAF Photo by David Perry via DVIDS)

While the video’s context as a parody becomes apparent as it progresses, the messaging could be potentially interpreted as incongruent with the overall public affairs efforts of the Joint Strike Fighter program, especially to non-military audiences. It is also out of time with the unexplained recent loss of a Japanese Air Self Defense Force F-35A less than a month ago off the coast of Japan on April 9, 2019.

USAF Capt. Madeleine Jensen wrote the scripts for the five videos that include the parody of an exploding F-35A Joint Strike Fighter at Hill AFB. (USAF Photo by David Perry via DVIDS)

In media relations terminology, the messaging and images seen in the opening segment of the video may reside outside an acceptable “Overton Window” for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The Overton Window is an academic public affairs and media concept for “the range of ideas tolerated in public discourse”. Because the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program has been a lightning rod for often uninformed public criticism, the exploding F-35A visuals featured in the opening seconds of the new Hill AFB programming could be taken out of context and seem poorly calibrated. These depictions likely reside outside the Overton Window for official depictions of USAF F-35A operations. The timing for the release of the video seems incongruent with the rest of the Joint Strike Fighter program, which has featured successful F-35 Joint Strike Fighter combat debuts with the Israeli Defense Forces, the U.S. Marines and most recently, the U.S. Air Force on April 30, 2019.

The video with the exploding F-35A is part of a series written by, “Capt. Madeleine Jensen, base deputy sexual assault response coordinator, who wrote the scripts for the productions in coordination with organizations across the service”, according to the Hill AFB public affairs website. It is not known if F-35 Joint Strike Fighter manufacturer Lockheed Martin reviewed the video prior to release.

About Tom Demerly 473 Articles
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.