ROK F-35A Conducts Emergency ‘Belly Landing’
ROK officials told the Yonhap news agency that the incident was caused by “avionic system issues,” which caused the landing gear to malfunction. The landing gear did not extend, and the pilot landed on a runway with the gear up.
A fire engine used a special foam on the runway before the landing; officials said, “which prevented the jet’s fuselage from sustaining any serious damage.” The full scope of the damage has yet to be determined.
Around 1 p.m. local time, the plane made an emergency landing at a ROK base in Seosan, about 70 kilometres from Osan Air Base. It is the first known instance of an F-35 belly landing since the United States began exporting the fifth-generation fighter to partner nations. F-35, unlike 4th generation aircraft, lands fast. The belly landing may cause damage beyond repair.
Officials in ROK have reportedly announced that all of their air force’s F-35 fighters will be grounded while investigating the emergency landing.
According to news agency Nikkei, other incidents involving allies and partners in the F-35 programme have occurred, with members of the Japan Air Self-Defence Force having to make at least seven emergency landings in F-35s. In April 2019, a Japanese pilot was killed in a night-time crash into the ocean.
In November 2021, a British F-35B crashed into the Mediterranean Sea shortly after taking off an aircraft carrier. This particular accident is believed to have some exceptions as the remaining aircraft is not grounded.
Pilots in the United States Air Force have also faced difficulties. A pilot at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, crashed while landing in May 2020. An F-35A’s landing gear collapsed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, a month later.
In addition to ROK and Japan, Australia, a US ally, operates F-35As in the Indo-Pacific, and Singapore will receive F-35Bs beginning in 2026.