Marine F-35B Suffers Millions in Damages After Runway Bird Strike

A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 arrives at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 9, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Carlos Jimenez)
A U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II aircraft with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 arrives at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 9, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Carlos Jimenez)

An F-35B Joint Strike Fighter pilot aborted a takeoff last week after it struck a bird on a Japan runway, leading to at least $2 million in damages.

The aircraft, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, struck the bird on May 7, according to data from the Naval Safety Center. The pilot safely taxied off the runway at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Maj. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, said.

The aircraft never went airborne, he added. There were no injuries caused by the incident, which was first reported by Marine Corps Times.

A safety investigation and damage assessment are ongoing, Flanagan said.

“An initial assessment estimated the damage to the aircraft as exceeding the $2 million threshold, classifying it as a Class A mishap,” he said.

Bird strikes are not uncommon for military and civilian pilots. An Air Force pilot landed an F-35A safely after striking a bird.

Last month, another Air Force jet, an F-16 Fighting Falcon, struck a bird when landing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. The incident was reported by Task and Purpose after a photo showing the aftermath of the strike emerged on a popular Air Force social media account.

An Air Force spokeswoman told the outlet the bird involved in that strike was a Swainson’s Hawk, which can grow to about 2 feet long.

"When a bird strike occurs, the remains are sent to the Smithsonian where they classify the bird and determine how it was struck," 2nd Lt. Jasmine Manning told Task and Purpose.

This is at least the third mishap for a Marine Corps F-35. In September, a Marine F-35B crashed in South Carolina. The pilot was able to eject and was treated at a local medical facility. And in 2016, another F-35B caught fire midflight due to a flawed bracket. That pilot landed the aircraft safely.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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