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

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

The engine of an F-35Cwas damaged while receiving fuel from an F/A-18F Super Hornet on Aug. 22. Debris from an aerial refuelling 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. 

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. A new F135 engine 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 to validate 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.

Navy expects to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) for the F-35C in February 2019. 

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