Bird Strike Blamed For F-35 Belly Landing In South Korea

An additional probe into the landing gear malfunction that prompted the stealth fighter’s emergency landing is planned, according to reports.

A Republic of Korea Air Force F-35A takes off July 20, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. [Courtesy: US Air Force]

A South Korean F-35 was forced into an emergency belly landing earlier this month after a bird strike on its engine, according to reports.

The findings, released late last week, offer a preliminary explanation of what caused the January 4 incident that prompted the fighter jet’s emergency landing after the aircraft’s landing gear system malfunctioned. Immediately afterward, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) grounded its fleet of F-35s pending an investigation.

According to the ROKAF, additional inquiries into the incident are forthcoming and will include a probe by U.S. experts into the failure of the electronics system and landing gear, Yonhap News Agency reported

During the emergency landing, the pilot did not eject and remained in the aircraft to land it. “All systems had stopped working except flight controls and the engine,” ROKAF vice chief of staff Shin Ok-chul said, CBS News reported at the time.

The incident, which was the first reported emergency landing of the stealth fighter in South Korea, occurred at Seosan Air Base, about 65 miles southwest from Seoul. The pilot survived the hard landing “unscathed,” military officials said.

After the incident, the ROKAF grounded its fleet of more than 30 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters pending an investigation.

“Its landing gear should have been down, but it wasn’t,” a South Korean Air Force official told Stars and Stripes. “So, it made a belly landing.” 

F-35A flights will be grounded “for a while,” the official said at the time.

South Korea selected the F-35 in 2014 for its F-X III fighter program, and is currently taking deliveries of 40 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variants, according to Lockheed Martin.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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