It’s the first known gear-up landing of an F-35.
According to the report, the 5th generation aircraft was involved in a training mission when an avionic system issues forced the pilot to carry out a gear up landing at Seosan airbase, 151 kilometers southwest of Seoul. The emergency apparently marked the type’s first ever belly landing.
“Before the landing, the Air Force mobilized a fire engine to apply special foam on the runway, which prevented the jet’s fuselage from sustaining any serious damage,” Yonhap reported. While the real extent of the damage to the aircraft has not been revealed, the mishap left the pilot unharmed.
A joint investigation with Lockheed Martin will determine the root cause of the incident; meanwhile, ROKAF will suspend all of its F-35A fighters pending the probe.
The Republic of Korea selected the F-35 at the end of its F-X III fighter acquisition program with the signing of a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) between the U.S. and Korean governments on Sept. 30, 2014. So far, ROKAF has received more than 30 aircraft out of 40 ordered F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant jets. In December 2017, South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration established a process for procuring the 20 additional aircraft, the Joongang Ilbo newspaper reported, citing multiple government sources.
The first F-35A for the ROKAF, known as aircraft AW-1, took flight in Fort Worth, Texas, in March 2018. In the same year, the first F-35A was delivered to Luke AFB, Arizona, for pilot training while in 2019, the first F-35As were delivered to their permanent base in South Korea.
The ROKAF’s 17th Fighter Wing and its two child units, the 151 Fighter Squadron and 152 Fighter Squadron, operate the F-35 out of Cheongju Air Base, southeast of Seoul.