Home » Aviation » F-35C, Super Hornet Damaged During At-Sea Aerial Refueling


F-35C, Super Hornet Damaged During At-Sea Aerial Refueling

An F-35C Lightning II assigned to the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 sits on the flight deck prior to flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). US Navy Photo

An F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter flying from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) was damaged during an aerial refueling exercise, in the first major flight mishap for the carrier version of the JSF.

The engine of an F-35C from Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 was damaged while receiving fuel from an F/A-18F Super Hornet from VFA-103 on Aug. 22, Navy officials confirmed to USNI News. Debris from an aerial refueling basket was ingested into the F-35C’s engine intake, resulting in the damage, Naval Air Forces Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht said on Tuesday.

Both fighters were able to land safely – the Super Hornet flew to Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., while the F-35C returned to Lincoln. No injuries were reported and the incident is currently under investigation, Hecht said.

Damage to the F-35C was reported as a Class A mishap – the most serious type for a military aircraft. An incident is classified as Class A when an aircraft suffers more than $2 million in damage, is totally destroyed or involves a serious or fatal injury to the aircrew. The damage to the F-35 was above the $2 million threshold, Hecht said. A new F135 engine for the JSF costs about $14 million, according to the most recent contract award to engine builder Pratt & Whitney.

The Super Hornet was also damaged but was reported as a Class C mishap because there were no injuries and the total estimated cost of damage to the aircraft is between $50,000 and $500,000, Hecht said.

The F-35 was flying in an integrated air wing test event aboard Lincoln that Navy officials described as a validation of how the aircraft operates and is maintained and sustained at sea. This first-ever at-sea operational test for the F-35C, launching and recovering alongside Super Hornets, E-2D Advanced Hawkeyes and C-2A Greyhounds, is a first glimpse of what the future air wing will look like once the F-35C reaches initial operational capability and is more widely fielded.

The test offered the Navy a way to gauge how well the F-35 “integrates with the ship, how it interoperates with communications, data links, other aircraft, and then how we conduct the mission and tie into the other aircraft that are conducting that mission and how effective they are when they do it,” Rear Adm. Dale Horan, director of Joint Strike Fighter Fleet Integration for the Navy, explained to reporters during a media event last week aboard Lincoln.

The F-35Cs operating on Lincoln were from VFA-125, a fleet replacement squadron, and VFA-147, an operational squadron. Both are based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.

Navy expects to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) for the F-35C in February 2019. Before achieving IOC, though, the F-35C has to conduct a formal initial operational test and evaluation event at sea, which is expected to occur in the fall. The Navy will also have to show it can man, train, equip and operate 10 F-35Cs at sea, along with establishing an appropriate support network to supply parts and personnel, ahead of declaring IOC.

  • bc

    Fall’s F-35C IOT&E event (at sea) should include an engine change to “show it can man, train, equip and operate 10 F-35Cs at sea, along with establishing an appropriate support network to supply parts and personnel, ahead of declaring IOC.”

    And while this may read as snarky or sarcastic, it is not intended that way. BZ to the pilots for bringing both aircraft safely home, including the single-engine type with an apparently FOD’d F135-PW-400.

    Though at great cost, assuming P&W and NAVAIR engineering will learn much from teardown and analysis.

    • Rocco

      This was done already on the Nimitz!

  • RunningBear

    The SBug flies with the Cobham Buddy Stores 31-301 Series P/N: 31-301-48310.

    The basket is “not” readily edible by the F-135 but if the hose knuckle was not ingested, the other parts are small enough to not abrade the impellers and unbalance the engine rotor within the bearings. The PW engine vibration monitoring alarms should give the pilot adequate comfort of the health of the engine/ power in making the trap back at the carrier.

    The damage inspection correlating with the performance and vibration monitoring should be an interesting data point for both the aviators, mechanics and PW. The possible damage to the fuselage surfaces with the basket/ knuckle/ hose system should be another data point for LM, aviators and technicians. The opportunity/ need to change the engine aboard ship will be interesting, especially if it relocates ashore after inspection without an engine change. How many flight hours allowed with known damage.

    The F/A-18E/F having to land ashore is interesting, if it was precautionary to allow time for the F-35C shipboard recovery or if flight handling was compromised by the mishap. There was no mention of day or night time refueling and if the Class A for the F-35C damage was assigned to the engine and/ or fuselage. The SBug damage may be attributed to only the Buddy Stores or to the flight surfaces.

    IMHO
    🙂

    I

    • CharleyA

      Pretty ballsy of the F-35C returning to the boat. It’s possible that was all they could do because of its fuel state.

      • James B.

        You don’t want to put any more time on a FODed engine than you have to– the longer it runs, the more damage occurs.

        • CharleyA

          That too. I’m sure that was part of the equation.

    • USNVO

      Given the initial estimates of the damage to the F-18, I was guessing the basket did not fully retract after the incident so they sent it back to shore as a precaution.

      • CharleyA

        What basket? 🙂

        • Rocco

          The receptacle that the probe fits into!! Male & Female…..

          • CharleyA

            Rocco, it got eaten by the F-35’s engine….

          • Rocco

            Yes I know. What USNO was saying because it didn’t retract is why it go sucked in the engine.

          • CharleyA

            Which is why I said, “What basket?” With a smiley face…

            BTW, USNO says, “I was guessing the basket did not fully retract “…

          • Rocco

            Agreed! Didn’t see the smile! Having dinner & getting looks from the boss!! Lol

          • Refguy

            Presumably he meant the hose.

          • Rocco

            No basket!!

          • Refguy

            Yes, no basket, but the hose was still attached to the buddy store. With no basket to stabilize it, the hose would whip in the wind and possibly damage the F-18. In any case, an arrested landing with the hose extended might result in a fouled deck; the prudent course of action was RTB at low speed and deal with the hose and buddy store on the ground. Edit: I think the Douglas buddy store had guillotine for getting rid of the hose if it wouldn’t retract. If the current system doesn’t have one, it should: if it does, the comment about landing with a trailing hose doesn’t apply, the possibility of damage from a whipping hose until it was jettisoned is still a concern.

    • Rocco

      Seriously!! The most minute FOD can cause damage to an engine let alone the basket on the hose!! Even though going slow the impact is comparable to a bird strike! This is where I have a problem with single engine carrier aircraft. Luckily no one got hurt & the pilot saved the jet.

  • Mort

    Tough Engine.

    • Curtis Conway

      It would seem. There is actually not enough information to make that assessment. Of course PW would want that evaluation out there.

      • Rocco

        Agreed – not enough to ground the fleet!

  • johnbull

    Bad news that two planes were damaged, one pretty seriously; but great news that both pilots landed the jets safely. Planes are replaceable people aren’t.

    • Rocco

      Agreed ⚓️

    • RunningBear

      Whoa!, I think I have sensed a reluctant approval of the “Sea” from the SBug guys, after eating part of that “Basket” and not flaming out!!! It can rock and roll off and on the flightdeck with the SBug and not get seasick. It must be getting it’s “sea-legs”!
      IMHO
      🙂

  • Curtis Conway

    Because of the proximity of the F-35C intakes to the refueling probe it is imperative that aerial refueling equipment be up to speed. Replacement of excessively used equipment, and any equipment showing damage should be removed from any Carrier Air Group refueling devices operating with, or servicing F-35B/C aircraft. It should be noted that the F-35B operations flying with the USMC have reported no such incidents to date, and they have been flying the aircraft, and refueling them on a regular basis for over a year.

    As with the USAF new T-X, perhaps the next USN T-X be a refueling qualification aircraft. Almost all US military aircraft are capable of aerial refueling, and that requires a familiarization of the Process & Skill Set to develop that expertise. The sooner that happens the better/safer we will be.

    • RunningBear

      Perhaps the Marines can offer to show the Aviators how a/a refuel!
      🙂

      • Rocco

        Hahaha! Do we know if this was a day time refuel or at night? Big difference here?

    • CharleyA

      There is a documented deficiency with the refueling system on the F-35B/C, and there have been several other mishaps that occurred during refueling evolutions. This is the first where debris has been ingested by the receiving F-35. Part of the problem is the canopy bow blocks direct view of the refueling probe. Interesting that the Super Hornet was also damaged – maybe the hose bucked a bit.

      • Curtis Conway

        I noticed the Hornet went to the beach, and the F-35C went back to the ship. Maybe that engine change-out at sea is a good idea. A canopy visibility problem with the fueling probe ? . . . we have been working on this jet ‘this long’ and they didn’t fix this issue? I am more than disappointed. Lockheed Martin having produced this flawed system will no doubt blame it on a configuration approved by the JSF Program Office. Despicable. LM has jeopardized our national defense, and has a problem to solve . . . and they better own it!

        Camera on the probe and watch the helmet display for mate-up?

        • CharleyA

          I think a change-out will be great experience for the maintainers. I’m also thinking that the probe got knocked out, and the Charlie did not have the fuel to make it back to the beach. Pretty risky to land at sea with a questionable engine – on a single engine jet. Perhaps they had no choice.

          • Curtis Conway

            Don’t want to run a FOD damaged blade any longer than necessary, and shutting THAT engine down is not an option.

          • Duane

            F-35s have been aerially refueled successfully for many years, this is the first reported Class A incident.

            This may have been an early effort of refueling via Super Hornet, as this series of operational tests at sea is the first involving integrated air ops for the F35.

        • Rocco

          Land may have be too far away. Especially low on fuel if it was & one engine you can’t shut down.

        • John S

          “I noticed the Hornet went to the beach, and the F-35C went back to the ship.”

          You have a single engine aircraft, already low on fuel (hence the refueling) with unknown engine damage. You get that aircraft down as quickly and as safely as possible. Hence, return to the ship.

          You also have an F/A18 airborne. You have the possibility that either the F-35C will ditch requiring a sea rescue operation, or somehow have a mishap while landing, resulting in an extended foul deck. Your F/A-18 has enough fuel to reach an alternate base now, but may not have enough fuel if it has to orbit for 30 minutes or more waiting for a foul deck to be cleared.

          You send the F/A-18 to the alternate base immediately.

          • Duane

            Nobody should ever second guess any safe landing performed after a significant airborne emergency.

        • LilWolfy

          Curtis: At the same stage of F-14 or F/A-18 Carrier Wing Quals and initial evals, how many Write Offs, Crashes, and fatalities were there? Oh wait, the F-14 didn’t even make it to the boat before lawn-darting and causing fatalities, then exhibited one of the worst safety records of any modern fighter over its entire career.

          During testing of the F/A-18A, Captain Kleeman (Libyan Sukhoi killer of VF-41), died after an accident upon landing in an early Hornet that skidded along the runway. He had almost 4,000 flying hours of experience, and left behind a wife and 4 kids. The F/A-18 has 234 write offs to-date, most of which are crashes, and many of which involved fatalities, including the one in March off of Key West.

          The cumulative fleet F-35 flight hours exceeded 140,000 hours in June. No crashes or fatalities, after 12 years of production birds flying in extremely high-stress DOT&E programs at Edwards, Eglin, Pax River, Luke, Hill, Marines with deployed squadrons and FRS, and US Navy FRS and carrier qual schedules. I thought for certain there would have been multiple lawn darts by now, especially with the all the operators.

          By this time in the F/A-18’s operational test and evaluation, and 12 years of service, there were 97 write offs, with 27 fatalities from the known incident reports, and at least half of those without fatality data recorded on Aviation Safety Network.

          • Curtis Conway

            LilWolfy, I’m an F-35 (any flavor) fan. Not sure why you put down your comment, other than to review the facts and HiStory, of which I agree. I do think that neither F14 or F/A-18 went through 10 years of development and test, so those platform statistics are high in their numbers because of their less lengthy DT&E effort.

            AFTER a decade It is disappointing to see an issue of ‘lack of appropriate visibility’ . . . Through – The – Canopy (no one wrote this up before?) . . . at this point this is more than disappointing. This kind of activity falls in another category. Does this not strike you as strange? LM apologetic are we? How much did we spend on the DT&E on this platform, and we have a fundamental problem of SEEING THROUGH THE CANOPY . . . I mean, gotta spell this out ? . . I bet the distortion is not in the simulator. Let’s get real here.

          • LilWolfy

            F-35 canopy visibility is very spacious and generous. Not sure what you’re referencing, unless you’re talking about canopy frame when refueling, which is not an issue.

            F-14 was being developed throughout the program, as is the F/A-18 series. F/A-18A/B was manufactured to 380 units before moving to the improved C/D models in 1987, and continual improvements were made to A-D models, as they are to E/F Super Hornets.

            The electro-optical targeting systems, ECM, Countermeasures, radars, missiles, bombs, stand off munitions, cockpits, data links, GPS addition, JDAM integration, engine upgrades, JHMCS, etc. have all been done after-the-fact, whereas with the F-35, all those types of systems were designed and integrated into the airframe and avionics architecture from the start, plus some.

            So if we take the development of older generations ancillary systems on the 4th Gen jets, look at the timeline, and consider a generational leap of new systems in each of those categories is being integrated from the start with the F-35, in addition to Stealth/VLO, a totally new engine generation, and internal weapons bays, the initial RDT&E and ODT&E timeline makes perfect sense.

          • Rocco

            I resent the mater of fact & without emotion that you referring to aircraft as a law Dart!! You probably never served in any capacity! Military aviation is not a game! Granted even back in the 70’s when 4 gen aircrafts were just being introduced & upto now the military always had to deal with budget cuts! At any point in time has this compromised safety? Absolutely! With many wars faught in between & generations of pilots come & go under different administrations! Aircraft get put through more punishment than probably any other piloted equipment. So I take offense to how you or anyone call jets a lawndart!🖕

          • LilWolfy

            Within the aviation community, as well as in the military general, “lawn dart” is used quite often regarding crashes. As to my service, your assumption is wrong, as I spent 10 years working around, in, and from military aviation but as a delayed lawn dart much of that time (static line parachute and rotary wing operations).

            If it came across as me being callous towards those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, that’s the opposite of my message. The whole subject is about safety record as a focus, assuming that we all value higher safety standards.

            Right now, we have an aircraft that is demonstrating unusually-safe behavior as a fleet with over 300 F-35s in the air, most of which have been flying over the past 12 years for a cumulative 140,000+hrs. The goal is less lawn darts, less fatalities, more aviators coming home to their families every day.

      • delta9991

        Please cite a source on the B/C not having direct line of site on the refueling probe being the issue. The only thing i’ve seen in regard to this are the intentional “weak links” being too weak. Have yet to come across that statement… which makes me question the source

        • CharleyA

          Easy. “We also learn other interesting details from the presentation, like how the F-35’s canopy bow perfectly blocks the pilot’s line of sight with the refueling probe, so that the pilot has to move their head around to see it. ”

          From an article entitled:

          “Navy Presents Revealing F-35 Helmet Display Videos And Flight Test Dangers”

          The Drive website.

          I cannot post a direct link as it is not allowed on the USNI forum site, but if you know how to use Google, it will take only a few seconds to find it.

          • delta9991

            Thank you for the source. While usually i’m extremely skeptical of Mr. Rogoway’s reporting, he is citing the official testing group lecture so that is trustworthy enough for me. Judging by the fact the group did not feel the need to mention the probe positioning as a major concern during the video, just as something they needed to keep in mind means this might not be as big a concern as we think. DOTE reports indicate one solution to have been pilot training… so I lean more and more to the “inconvenient, but not major” concern

          • CharleyA

            The official testing and oversight presentations and reports are the best source of releasable info, and *sometimes* it can contradict what is been spoon-fed to the public by the marketing side, aka the contractor, its surrogates, and unfortunately the program office. I still cannot believe that the HMDS night/backlighting deficiency (“green glow”) hasn’t been fully resolved yet. If you only listened to the those just mentioned, you wouldn’t know that only experienced sticks are allowed to trap the jet at night because the next version of the HDMS that corrects the issue won’t become available until next year.

          • LilWolfy

            The testers said that only experienced pilots are doing F-35C carrier quals and evals, like with every other new jet program. So when an article says that only “experienced sticks” are allowed to trap the jet, which is far easier to trap with than the SH or anything else they’ve flown, it makes you question the motives or competence of someone who would point that out, while clearly refusing to apply “Relevance”, “Fairness”, and “Completeness” pillars of critical thinking standards.

          • CharleyA

            At night. Learn to read (before you throw shade.) And it is a fact, as it was reported earlier:

            “The F-35’s high-tech helmet is limiting night-flight operations due to an issue with the display that creates a green glow on the screen, which makes it hard for pilots to see the carrier’s deck lights. The issue is that the brightness of the LED display can’t get down low enough to avoid creating a glow when it’s pitch black outside.

            The Navy says it’s close to fixing the issue with a new kind of LED display, known as organic LED, which will be fielded next year, Horan said. For now, the Navy is limiting nighttime deck landings to pilots with more than 50 night traps, a term for an arrested landing at night.

            “Until we get that, we are not letting inexperienced pilots approach the carrier [at night],” Horan said. “Modifications have been made to the software to impact how much glow it gets, but even with that they are still having to compensate for it in the cockpit — something that an experienced pilot can do, but a junior pilot can’t.””

            Search terms below.

            DefenseNews August 29

            “After nearly 2 decades in development, the US Navy is close to operating with its new stealth fighter”
            By: David B. Larte

          • Rocco

            Interesting! I could relate to this as to why I hate waring a full helmet when I ride my Bike . Especially when it’s humid & I get fogged up from just me breathing. Why windshield does the same thing with oncoming cars at night causing glare distortion.

          • LilWolfy

            I’m already well aware of the Gen III HMDS and the brightness levels, so “learn to read” is a really immature and condescending tone to take that was done with false assumptions about my familiarity with the program.

            They’re not going to hand the F-35C over to new pilots until they get the HMDS brightness levels to where they want them. Like every other initial new system conversion program, they’re using experienced pilots who are coming out of Super Hornets.

            When they took the F-14A, the F/A-18A, and the Super Hornet to the carrier quals for the first time, they didn’t pull nuggets out of school and say, “Hey new guy. Wanna go test a new jet for day and night carrier ops? We know you’ve trapped at night only a handful of times, but we thought we’d throw you into this new multi-million dollar machine with billions of dollars in future procurement and future combat capability riding on its performance.”

            It begs the question when some ignoramus writer points out or focuses on the pilot experience level of initial carrier quals: Does the writer know the relevance of any statements related to pilot experience in this context?

            In this case, it’s obvious that they either don’t, or they are grasping at straws to find any criticism possible to malign the F-35 as somehow unique in this process. If they had the important critical thinking pillars from the intellectual standards as part of a basic education, we’d be talking about a totally different aspect of the program and how carrier-borne F-35Cs are going to shape future CVN battle group operations as part of a broader global force projection strategy.

            But instead, we’re down in the weeds working about HMDS III brightness levels that will be changed for the IOC HMDS for the Navy in order to meet their night carrier landing requirements.

          • CharleyA

            I’m not quite sure how to respond, but if you read the Defense news article, the author was paraphrasing Rear Adm. Dale Horan, the CO of F-35 integration. Horan goes on to say ““Until we get that [the new HMDS], we are not letting inexperienced pilots approach the carrier [at night],” Horan said. “Modifications have been made to the software to impact how much glow it gets, but even with that they are still having to compensate for it in the cockpit — something that an experienced pilot can do, but a junior pilot can’t.”

            I do understand that in your view, critics, “ignoramus” writers, etc. are “grasping at straws to find any criticism possible to malign the F-35.” You are throwing shade, once again, thus should not expect to be treated any differently than how you treat others.

          • RunningBear

            OBTW, all of the F-35s have the onboard JPALS system to share data with the JPALS on the carrier, to allow for automatic carrier landing. Yes, landing with your eyes closed! JPALS was and is used on the X-47B (no pilot), F-18s and F-35Cs during carrier landings. The F-35C program (app) Delta Flight Path has been used in carrier qualifications on multiple F-35Cs to the point that the cross deck pennant has been “worn out” and required replacement from repeated precision landings on a carrier (no bolters).

            The F-18 has a similar new app called Magic Carpet with the same results. So……a newby could land the F-35C on the carrier at night with their eyes closed, by simply pushing the “Landing” button. But I doubt any newbys were allowed to participate in this F-35C testing and the statement of landing by experienced pilots was sort of out of context??
            IMHO
            🙂

      • Rocco

        The force of the hose being pulled is like a barracuda taking a hit on your Pole yanking it out of your hands.

      • E1 Kabong

        Cite your source.

        • CharleyA

          You can start here:

          GAO June 2018: “F-35 JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER:
          Development Is Nearly Complete, but Deficiencies Found in Testing Need to Be Resolved [Reissued with Revisions Jun. 13, 2018]”

          “Aerial refueling probes: The F-35B and F-35C variants use a “hose and drogue” system where an aerial refueling tanker aircraft extends a long, flexible refueling hose and a parachute-like metal basket that provides stability, and the receiving aircraft then connects to the drogue basket with its extendable refueling probe, as shown in figure 10. From April 2014 to August 2017, 21 incidents have occurred where the F-35’s aerial refueling probes broke off while conducting aerial refueling, leading to a restriction of aerial refueling operations. The Navy and Air Force are investigating the issue and implementing improvements to reduce these incidents:

          1. Pilot training improvements have been completed.
          2. Improved inspection of KC-10 aerial refueling equipment has been implemented.
          3. Software improvements to reduce the pilot’s workload during refueling are planned to enter flight testing in May 2018.
          4. A stronger refueling probe is in development.”

          It was also mentioned in the FY17 DOT&E JSF Report:

          “Both variants use an air refueling probe which is designed with an intentional weak link to protect the probe. The probe tips are breaking too often, resulting in squadrons placing restrictions on air refueling. The program is still investigation the problem.”

          Or search this title since USNI doesn’t allow links:
          “Watch This F-35B Have A Bit Of Aerial Refueling Frustration On Its Way To The UK”

          So that’s two major incidents involving the failure of refueling probe in the past few months that could have resulted in the loss of an aircraft, one a transatlantic crossing by British F-35Bs, and this one where the jet eats the basket and/or other parts.

          • E1 Kabong

            “Deficiencies Found in Testing…”

            TESTING.

            “4. A stronger refueling probe is in development.”

            ZERO mention of the canopy bow….

            “Watch This F-35B Have A Bit Of Aerial Refueling Frustration On Its Way To The UK”

            “…could have resulted in the loss…”?

            COULD.
            DID NOT.

            That’s FOUR non-issues…

          • El Kabong

            So, how many refuelings have F-35’s done?

            Care to chat about ALL the AAR incidences that occur to OTHER NATO aircraft?

            Want to chat about the A400M and helo refuelling?

          • CharleyA

            Let’s talk about the GAO findings.

          • El Kabong

            Deflection attempt FAIL.

            Clearly, like all amateur, keyboard commandos, you fail to comprehend what the point of those GAO reports are for.

    • Rocco

      Agreed but no more distance than the F-4’s.!

      • Curtis Conway

        We are supposed to do it better with every iteration of aircraft generation. The F-35 intakes relation to the refueling probe is maybe a little smaller (perhaps), but sucking a lot of air so its vacuuming up a lot of air around the front of the aircraft in flight. Fluid dynamics is fluid dynamics.

        • Rocco

          Curtis we have no idea what had occurred. I bet turbulence played a part in this! So imagine how much turbulence the blades of an osprey has not far behind it if it were to do refueling!!

          • Curtis Conway

            I’m with you 100% there. There is one comment where it is revealed that a known canopy distortion problem exist through the canopy at the point of contact area. Seems problematic to me. Of course they may have had nothing to do with this incident. We just don’t know. More reports to come.

          • Secundius

            But shouldn’t the F-36C’s Pilots Helmet correct for that mistake. I mean if the Helmet allows the Pilot to “See” in every conceivable direction without Blind Spots, the same should also hold true for Refueling…

        • E1 Kabong

          “We are supposed to do it better with every iteration of aircraft generation.”?

          Guess you missed the legacy Hornet failing to meet the range requirements to match the F-4 and A-7….

          And the Not-So Super Hornet didn’t improve much.

  • delta9991

    Glad both aircrew are ok. Article seems a bit misleading citing the cost of the F-135, as what will happen is the motor will just be rebuilt with new components for those found unserviceable (you never chunk a whole motor for something like this, if you did you’d be buying a new aircraft too). Class A tells me that that theirs likely extensive Gaspath damage (anything that could be saved in-situ or found acceptable as it was would be) which will require a full overhaul of the engine. Great learning to be had on the PW and Navy side for future damage. Also shows just how robust this motor is and hopefully puts most of the single engine worries to rest (and myths too).

    If it was me, I’d do a full workup of the engine replacement. Fly CODspreys aboard with the modules, do an engine change aboard to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

    • Curtis Conway

      Like the comment but I don’t think we are there yet. “Also shows just how robust this motor is and hopefully puts most of the single engine worries to rest.” I want to see it eat some bullets, ingest some intake material after taking damage, and see how well it performs. Given the HiStory of USN engines J57 / J79 . . . the F135 has a lot to live up to.

      • delta9991

        Agreed it’s likely too early, but we can dream. J57 is a PW motor as well, in addition to the great F100 and F119 motors pratts been putting out in recent years.. From the reliability metrics this engine looks to be in the same vein. F117 is largely a civilian motor but has been put to the test as well. Pratt has good legacy, and I’m willing to bet it’ll be just fine. Damage like this is likely a good measure of what the rotors can take and have the motor keep running which makes me more confident

        • Rocco

          F-117 has a civilian motor!! Try it has the same engine as the hornet legacy with out the burners!!

          • delta9991

            F117 is a PW2000 mounted to the C-17. Sorry for the confusion

          • Rocco

            Oh…OK lol yes I’ve been in one this year.

    • RunningBear

      This is SBug mafia country, I would not be surprised at an order of magnitude reduction in that “Class A??”!
      🙂

      • delta9991

        I doubt that’s the case. Can’t see how much damage came to the Shornet.

        • USNVO

          Agreed the damage to the F-18 is likely limited to the refueling pod, but I think RB was saying the damage to the F-35C is being exaggerated by the F-18 mafia.

          There also could be experience being misapplied, as in a F-18 with a similar incident will have FOD damage but an F-35C avoids that issue. This is similar to the F-18 mafia on paranoia about the MLG to tailhook distance being unprecedented when it was very similar to the A-7, F-8, A-4, and numerous other earlier carrier aircraft.

          Or there could also be a potential over abundance of caution. For instance, while the pilot may have indicated part of the basket was sucked into the intake, that may not have happened. So the initial report could be FOD damage but there isn’t any.

          And of course, the engine could be toast.

          Until the report comes out, it is all just speculation.

  • Marauder 2048

    I’m guessing that, by now, the Navy has just burned its “number of days without Class A Mishap” sign.

  • Mort

    The “single engined” jet returned to the boat after FOD. Thought that was only supposed to work for twin engined Navy jets…

    • James Du

      Modern aircraft engines are ludicrously durable, to the point where they can probably last long enough to land even after eating a flock of birds.

      • Mort

        Yup, I was being sarcastic.

      • Refguy

        Try telling Sully engines can ingest a flock of birds and keep running.

    • b2

      You make a point, but maybe the F-35C had to land like, right NOW…likely they were overhead mother and maybe too far to make the divert like the SH? Who knows, easier to conduct a safety investigation with both jets ashore, maybe. Instead of G-ing the hose from the tanker they wanted to investigate the entire system on recovery and learn more about the failure mode too, maybe.. All conjecture on my part. No one seems to notice this happened over two weeks ago…

      We know the F-35 engine is super powerful and also very expensive. Much to protect there. The spokesman PAO type is giving out the facts, the rest of the article is “spin”/program perspective.
      All I know is, I am reading about two expensive Fighter/Attack jets from different generations, designed to conduct aerial warfare, passing each other gas… “Risk”, and it aint even combat.

      • Rocco

        Agreed, being a new aircraft being at seea for trials & the Admiral in charge of the program aboard the Lincoln probably ordered the F-35 to come to the Ship & the Hornet to go ashore. This way the F-35 could be checked out by seniors,more importantly not foul the deck should it crashed when landing! Standard procedure.

    • E1 Kabong

      Well said.

      Good thing the USN/USMC got rid of those F-8’s, A-4’s, AV-8’s, etc.

      Oh, wait…..

      • Good thing the F-35 is considerably more safe than all those widow makers. Indeed half the AV-8 fleet has been lost to accidents; it reached the point that the Marines eagerly took in the retired British Harriers. Meanwhile the F-35 is the first tactical jet in history to go operational without any crashes or fatalities. Three years after the 2015 IOC and still no crashes or funerals. Slam dunk unprecedented.

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    What I want to know is if the Navy can get a carrier-based variant of the new F-22/F-35 combo concept that Lockheed is reportedly going to build for Japan… A future Carrier Air Wing with a squadron of 10-12 F-“57” fighter/interceptors, a squadron of 10-12 F-35 strike fighters, and 2 squadrons of F/A-18 E/F advanced/super Super Hornets would be *amazing*. And Japan is very, very interested in getting those F-57s built, we should take advantage, get some for both the Air Force AND the Navy.

    • Duane

      The proposed F-22/35 hybrid isn’t CTOL, as Japan has no carriers capable of cats and traps nor any plans to build any. The aircraft is also being pitched to the USAF.

      • RunningBear

        I believe the Japanese and the US/ Allies would be interested in both the Conventional Take Off and Landing/ CTOL as well as the Short Take Off and Vertical Landing/ STOVL versions, if those were both offered. The F-35 has shown the merits of both.
        IMHO
        🙂

      • Rocco

        Wrong! Japan has already shown interest in the F-35B & considering modifying their so called destroyer carries to see if its able to Handel it.

    • James B.

      There will never be a new-airframe F-22/35 combo design– design cost alone make it hopeless, and that’s assuming the product would even be competitive in per-unit cost with the F-35.

      There will be a block upgrade to refit the existing F-22 airframes with F-35 avionics, based on past upgrade programs, but no new jets.

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        You know Japan specifically requested Lockheed to come up with a proposal for a F-22/F-35 hybrid and Lockheed did just that, right? Which would allow the US to participate without funding the restart & retooling?

        • James B.

          How much design work have the Japanese contracted for? Lockheed isn’t going to do a detailed engineering study for free, and merging the F-22 and F-35 designs isn’t simple. Even if the Japanese were willing to pay all the costs, export licensing could be a problem, so it’d be a lot of pain and paperwork for limited improvement.

          I could imagine Mitsubishi building a “slim” variant of the F-35A–same avionics, but aggressively streamlined and omitting all the equipment and weight not needed for JASDF requirements. It would be the best version of the F-35, at a price the Japanese government is probably willing to pay for a locally-produced aircraft.

        • E1 Kabong

          Show us that proposal.

  • Eddie Smith

    I heard the navy has cornered the market on lipstick for this pig.

    • RunningBear

      The SBug has always worn it with style!
      🙂

  • George Hollingsworth

    Perhaps after the refueling incident the F-35 was close enough to the carrier to reduce power quite a bit except for an increase on final while dirty and the pilot managed to get it aboard. What would have been a matter of some concern in a twin-engine fighter was a matter of extreme concern here. Also of some interest is the additional damage incurred by the engine operating for the time it took to get aboard the ship as opposed to the initial damage, which would have been the only damage with a twin as the engine would have had a precautionary shutdown.

    • Rocco

      With two aircraft damaged either one returning to the ship imposes a danger to other aircraft by fouling the deck should it crash when landing. Other than ditching the jet one or the other would need to divert if possible! This is always pre set up when carriers are doing trials in operating areas.

  • LilWolfy

    F-35 fleet cumulative flight hours hit 140,000 in June of this year (2018). There have been 2 write-offs that I know of:

    * USMC F-35B weapons bay fire
    * USAF F-35A engine fire after restart in strong tailwinds ignited residual fuel from the first engine run

    There have been 3 Class A mishaps, including this one.

    * USAF Test F-35A engine fans pushed to twice the rated working temps as part of the test program, separated from the fan stage and blew through the aircraft

    * USMC F-35B with a known weapons bay bracket looseness issue that was planned for replacement/modification, that caused some wiring to chafe and spark hydraulic fluid. Aircraft written-off

    * USN F-35C FOD ingestion during aerial refueling

    We also just had the F-35A nose landing gear collapse at Eglin last week, don’t know what class damage it is yet, but the airframe will return to flight status after preparing what minimal damage was done. What might make it a Class A is if the EOTS was trashed. Other than that, everything else is intact.

    If you compare these mishaps with the F-14, the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, or Super Hornet, the F-35 entire fleet is proving to be a very safe system when put next to legacy aircraft. It’s just unheard of for a jet to go this far and have so few incidents when you consider they’ve been making them since 2006, and that they are flying all over the world.

  • Secundius

    I’m sort of curious as to what the Air Speed of the Tanker was! Maximum Safe Air Speed is 185kts or less for Drogue Refueling System..

  • E1 Kabong

    Slow news day.

    AAR accidents aren’t uncommon.

    Seen a lot of jets get banged up by drogues.

    Anyone using probe & drogue systems HATES the USAF KC-135 with the drogue adaptor on the boom (AKA: the Iron Maiden), because it beats the crap out of a jet’s skin if there’s a miss.

  • George Hollingsworth

    The extent of the engine damage was likely due to whether the ingested part(s) dinged the relatively slow moving fan blades or was ingested into the core engine. If it went into the core engine it may have cleaned out some compressor blades and the debris even may have damaged or separated some turbine blades so that likely did not happen. Damage to the fan blades would have resulted to an imbalance and vibration, possibly severe that could have lead to a non-contained fan-blade failure over a relatively short time frame.

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Glad all are safe.

  • E1 Kabong

    You first, troll.