The pilot of a U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II is hospitalized after ejecting from their aircraft before it crashed near Hill AFB in Utah on Oct. 19, 2022. Their condition is unreported.
Photos of smoke rising from the area reported as the crash scene were posted on social media following the accident that appears to have occurred in daylight and in clear weather.
Reports on the 388th Fighter Wing’s Twitter page said, “The F-35A Lightning II crashed around 6:15 p.m. local time at the north end of the base’s runway.” As with most military aviation accidents, no information about the cause of the crash has been reported and an investigation will begin when the crash scene is safe for investigators to enter.
A report published on CNN.com by Raja Razek quoted a nearby resident named Scott Phillips, who witnessed the crash, as saying:
“I was at my home …. mowing the lawn and watching the F-35 come in for landing as they do basically every night. We love watching them leave and come home.” Phillips went on to tell CNN.com that, “They land generally towards the south as they did today. On approach, one appeared to lose power and dipped too low below the trees. Next thing I saw was fire”.
The 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB includes the first operational F-35A fighter squadron in the world, the 34th Fighter Squadron, the “Rude Rams”. The unit became the first Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter squadron declared operational in August of 2016.
Hill AFB is also home to the USAF 4th Fighter Squadron, the “Fighting Fuujins”. The 4th Fighter Squadron was the first unit to be operationally deployed with the USAF F-35A Lightning II in 2019 during operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq, Syria and Libya and operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
As of October 2022, over 840 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters have been built across all versions. The aircraft is in service with ten countries, the U.S. (Air Force, Marines and Navy), Australia, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the U.K. Six more countries have committed to the Joint Strike Fighter program including Belgium, Finland, Germany, Poland, Singapore, and Switzerland, bringing the likely total partner-users to sixteen countries.
Since the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter first flew fifteen years ago on December 15, 2006, seven F-35s have crashed. The aircraft involved in crashes include one Japanese F-35A, an RAF F-35B, two USAF F-35As, two U.S. Marine F-35Bs and a U.S. Navy F-35C.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been used in combat by the Israeli Air Force as the F-35I Adir, the U.S. Air Force with their F-35A and the U.S. Marines with the F-35B.
While initially panned by popular media as being expensive, the cost per unit of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has, according to Lockheed Martin, “dropped 37% between 2015 and 2021” per aircraft and that, “its cost per flying hour dropped 50% over that period”. Lockheed continues to project cost reductions due to economies of scale and increased efficiencies through 2026 according to the company.
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