F-35C Joint Strike Fighter Makes Precautionary Landing in Fresno

An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft taxis across the flight line at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman)
An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft taxis across the flight line at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman)

An F-35C Joint Strike Fighter from Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125) out of Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, made an unexpected landing at Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Monday after an indicator signal went off in the aircraft's instruments.

The pilot made the judgment call to make the precautionary landing per Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization instructions, Cmdr. Ronald Flanders, spokesman for Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, told Military.com on Tuesday.

"This was a precautionary landing per an indicator on the pilot's instruments," he said. "This was not a physiological episode. The pilot is fine. The aircraft is fine."

The incident occurred Monday afternoon. Flanders said the pilot executed the NATOPS procedure and deduced he was far enough away from Lemoore to call in a landing at Fresno.

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Flanders said the incident was possibly related to a mechanical issue in the aircraft but did not give any further details on what the issue might be. "Maintainers from VFA-125 are inspecting the aircraft to assess why he got that indicator," he said. "Once it is cleared for flight, it will return to Lemoore."

Fox26News was first to report the incident. The local media outlet said the aircraft was taken to the Fresno Air National Guard Base's 144th Fighter Wing for maintenance.

NAS Lemoore is home to Strike Fighter Squadron 125, a replacement squadron, as well as VFA 147.

VFA-147 is slated to become the Navy's first operational F-35C squadron. The service hopes to declare the F-35C initial operating capability ready in February, with VFA-147's first deployment scheduled aboard the USS Carl Vinson in 2021.

Last month, an F-35 from VFA-125 was damaged during an aerial refueling exercise with an F/A-18F Super Hornet. After the jet took off from the USS Abraham Lincoln on Aug. 22, it was damaged during a refueling exercise when debris was ingested through its engine intake.

That same day, two Air Force F-35As experienced mishaps at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

One F-35A stealth fighter from the base had a nose gear malfunction, while another experienced a bird strike, officials said at the time.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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