The 5th gen aircraft suffered a nose gear down collapse during towing.
An F-35B Lightning II, belonging to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 ‘Green Knights’, was involved in an incident on the ground at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, on Dec. 1, 2022.
According to a statement released by the 1st Marine Air Wing of the U.S. Marine Corps quoted by the Japanese NHK media outlet, around 1:40PM LT, the F-35B made a precautionary landing at Kadena Air Base due to possible electrical problems. The aircraft was being towed when the nose wheel broke, leaving the 5th generation aircraft with its nose on the taxiway.
A camera installed by NHK showed the F-35B nose down on the taxiway of Kadena Air Base just after 3:00PM. While the U.S. Marine Corps is investigating the cause of the incident.
— NHK沖縄さぁたぁちゃん (@okinawa_nhk) December 1, 2022
The F-35 nose gear has a single wheel that retracts into a NLG wheel well immediately under the cockpit; the extent of the damage (and the subsequent cost) is unknown (the aircraft’s valuable Electro-Optical Targeting System or EOTS – might be heavily damaged). According to the U.S. Air Force, Collins Aerospace is the primary manufacture of all landing gear components.
Video of today’s incident with the F-35 fighter jet of the 121st squadron of the #USMC at the Kadena Air Force Base on the #Japanese island of #Okinawa
When towing the aircraft, the front landing gear dropped.pic.twitter.com/xIkJZYxXns
— Indo-Pacific News – Geo-Politics & Military News (@IndoPac_Info) December 1, 2022
The incident is strikingly similar to another one, that occurred to a USAF F-35A in 2018. In that event, an F-35A Lightning II, assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, experienced an in-flight emergency and returned to base. The aircraft landed safely and parked when the front nose gear collapsed. Another gear collapse incident occurred to another F-35A on the runway after landing at Hill AFB on Jun. 8, 2020. The investigation reports on the previous incidents have not been publicly released.
VMFA-121 is based at MCAS Iwakuni where it relocated from MCAS Miramar on Jan. 9, 2017.
Looks like someone forgot to insert the landing gear pin before towing the aircraft.