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F-35 Lightning II News

South Korean F-35 makes emergency ‘belly landing’

January 6, 2022 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A South Korean F-35A jet fighter conducted an emergency "belly landing" at an air base on Tuesday after its landing gear malfunctioned due to electronic issues.

RoKAF F-35A #21-034 is seen doing a low approach at NAS Fort Worth after its first flight on July 23rd, 2021. [Photo by Tim Wurth]

The touchdown with the landing gear retracted, was a first for the $100 million stealth fighter, which is currently in use or on order by more than a dozen countries.

A gear-up landing on the F-35 is quite difficult and dangerous because of the angle of attack the aircraft has on final approach.The F-35 Lightning II lands much fast er than the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Ahead of the death-defying maneuver, special foam was applied to the air base’s runway in order to stop the plane from exploding due to the friction and sparks created as it scrapes the tarmac at high speeds.

Seoul has currently halted all operations involving the F-35.

Although this is the first time a South Korean F-35 has been involved in an accident, the jets have been involved in at least eight other mishaps (JDSAF:1, RAF: 1, USAF:4, USMC: 2)

The most recent was the loss of a British F-35 fighter jet in November, when it fell into the Mediterranean Sea off the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. The pilot successfully ejected from the plane.

When a US Air Force F-35 crashed on landing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in May 2020, the pilot ejected safely. The disaster was blamed on a number of problems including the pilot and the plane's systems.

A Japanese F-35 fighter jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of northern Japan in April 2019, killing the pilot. The crash was blamed on spatial disorientation by the Japanese military.

The first F-35A for the RoKAF, known as aircraft AW-1, took flight in Fort Worth, Texas, in March 2018. In the same year, the first F-35A was delivered to Luke AFB, Arizona, for pilot training while in 2019, the first F-35As were delivered to their permanent base in South Korea.

The ROKAF’s 17th Fighter Wing and its two child units, the 151 Fighter Squadron and 152 Fighter Squadron, operate the F-35 out of Cheongju Air Base, southeast of Seoul.