Jan. 5 (UPI) — A South Korean air force pilot was forced to make an emergency landing because of malfunctioning landing gear in his F-35 Lightning II fighter early Tuesday afternoon.
According to reports, the pilot made a gear-up landing in the American-made jet fighter, managing to walk away from the crash uninjured after touching down at an air base in the city of Seosan, near the country’s west coast.
Emergency crews were alerted ahead of time and coated the runway in a special foam designed for this type of situation, enabling the pilot to make the landing on the plane’s belly without major damage to the aircraft, according to the Yonhap News Agency.
It says an avionics systems issue caused the landing gear to malfunction, without elaborating on specifics.
The agency also quotes South Korean air force officials saying they will move to temporarily ground the country’s fleet of F-35s until they complete an investigation into the emergency landing.
This is reportedly the first belly landing of an F-35 operated by a U.S. allied country.
The aircraft are manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corporation. The Maryland-based aerospace firm has produced approximately 730 of the multirole combat aircraft in a number of variants since 2006.
This is not the first accident involving the aircraft. In May 2020, an American F-35A crashed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. An investigation later pointed to a number of contributing factors.
The Japanese news agency Nikkei has also reported a number of accidents involving that country’s air force and the F-35.
Israel, Britain and Australia are among countries that also operate versions of the aircraft. In 2021, Switzerland and Finland announced they had chosen the F-35 for their new jet fighter programs.