The Marine Corps announced a plan to buy 14 lighting rods from LBA Technology Inc. for use at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan on Aug. 8, the War Zone first reported.
To add more incremental costs to the F-35B aircraft, the Marine Corps is having to invest in portable lighting rods to help protect the aircraft while it is parked on the tarmac.
According to a Marine Corps justification memorandum, “The F-35B as a composite type aircraft does not provide inherent passive lightning protection.”
The Automated Logistics Information System is essentially the F-35B’s computerized brain. This system is integral to the functioning capability of the aircraft. Due to the automated electronics associated with this system, it needs to be protected against the threat of lighting.
The implementation of lightning protection is standard operation procedure, Capt. Christopher Harrison, a spokesman for the Marine Corps, told Marine Corps Times in an email.
“Iwakuni already has permanent lightning protection installed on all aircraft sun shelters in order to protect both Marines and aircraft."
"To be clear, lightning protection is widely considered a best practice for all flight line operations and is an essential safeguard for all aircraft, not just the F-35. Procuring portable lightning rods simply provides a reliable, cost-effective precautionary measure to protect the aircraft when they are located elsewhere on the flight line.”
Like all aircraft, the F-35B has a fuel tank. Even grounded, the F-35B lacks any type of inherent lighting strike protection. A simple equation for disaster is fuel vapors, oxygen and a lightning strike could equate to a nonfunctioning aircraft.
The use of lightning rod on an airfield, “protects aircraft 24/7 when parked in open, austere, and lightning conditions are forecasted/exists,” according to a Marine Corps justification document.
The F35s in Japan are a part of the inaugural deployment of the new air platform.
Neil is a former US Army Captain and served operational deployments in South Korea and Afghanistan. He is currently an Editorial Fellow at the Military Times.