Air Force F-35 Crashes at Eglin; Pilot Ejects Safely

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F-35A Lightning II Eglin Air Force Base
An F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron awaits permission to taxi as an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 27th Fighter Squadron takes off in the background, Dec. 4, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Peter Thompson)

An F-35A Joint Strike Fighter crashed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Tuesday evening following a routine nighttime training flight, according to the Air Force.

An F-35A Lightning II, assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron of the 33rd Fighter Wing, crashed around 9:30 p.m. local time upon landing base officials said in a release. The pilot, who is in stable condition, "successfully ejected and was transported to the 96th Medical Group Hospital at Eglin for evaluation and monitoring," the release said.

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First responders from the 96th Test Wing responded to the scene, officials said.

"There was no loss of life or damage to civilian property," the release said. "The name of the pilot is not being released this time. The accident is under investigation."

The 33rd Fighter Wing is the leading training wing for F-35 student pilots at the base. Although the F-35 is the Pentagon's newest and most advanced aircraft, the oldest Joint Strike Fighters in the fleet reside at Eglin. The planes are part of Lockheed Martin's earliest low-rate initial production batches.

The F-35 mishap marks the second accident at Eglin in a week's time.

An F-22 Raptor crashed last Friday morning during a routine training flight near Eglin.

The pilot was able to eject safely and had been evaluated by the 96th Medical Group; the crash occurred roughly 12 miles northeast of Eglin on the test and training range. No injuries were reported.

An investigation into that mishap is also ongoing, officials said.

The latest F-35 accident marks the second American F-35 crash that occurred stateside in two year's time.

In September 2018, a Marine Corps F-35B assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 crashed near Beaufort, South Carolina. The pilot was able to eject; following the crash, the Pentagon grounded all service variants of the stealth fighter, citing the need to inspect potentially faulty fuel tubes within the engine before aircraft were allowed to take to the skies again.

In April 2019, an F-35A variant belonging to Japan crashed about half an hour after taking off from Misawa Air Base. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) concluded that the pilot experienced vertigo -- or spatial disorientation during flight -- which was the reason the pilot of the fifth-generation jet was unable to rectify the aircraft's course, ultimately plunging into the Pacific ocean.

The Air Force is the largest customer for the F-35, with hopes to procure 1,763 of the A variant from its maker, Lockheed Martin.

The F-35 program's total cost has been projected at more than $1 trillion over a 50-year service lifetime.

The Pentagon has put pressure on Lockheed to reduce costs where it can, officials have said, trying to get the cost lowered to at least $80 million per jet on the F-35A variant.

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

Related: F-22 Crashes Near Eglin Air Force Base; Pilot Ejects Safely

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