WASHINGTON ― After a mid-air emergency forced an F-35A fighter jet to return to Eglin Air Force Base, the plane’s nose landing gear collapsed, leaving the fifth-generation fighter face down on the runway.
The incident happened around 12:50 p.m. Wednesday. Fire crews responded immediately, and the pilot suffered no injuries, according to the Air Force. The plane is assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, and the service has launched an investigation into the incident.
Photos captured by local news outlets show the plane sitting safely on the runway, with its nose down on the ground. What damage may have resulted from the incident, and the costs associated with repairing it, is unclear; the service did not share details on the initial incident which required the plane to return to base early.
It’s not the first time the F-35 has had an issue with its front landing gear.
In 2017, Navy pilots using the F-35C model — a variation of the fighter jet designed for operations on a carrier ― complained the jet would bob up and down on its nose gear when being launched from a catapult.
The issue was bad enough that pilots said they could not read instruments while trying to take flight. A number of pilots also said they experienced pain from the motion. The department worked with Lockheed Martin on a fix for the issue.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.