US suspends F-35A operations after fire mishap at Eglin base
The US Air Force (USAF) has suspended flight operations of all F-35A aircraft following a fire mishap involving one of the fighters at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida, US.
One of the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) aircraft assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing caught fire in the aft end while taking off on a training flight; the pilot aborted the take off and escaped unhurt.
The fire was immediately extinguished by emergency responders using foam.
F-35 Joint Program Office spokesman Joe DellaVedova confirmed to Reuters that the pilot exited the aircraft without any injuries.
"Safety is paramount, and all F-35A flight operations have been temporarily suspended at Eglin as they investigate the nature of the incident, " DellaVedova said.
33rd Fighter Wing vice commander Navy captain Paul Haas said that the pilot followed the appropriate procedures, which allowed for the safe abort of the mission, engine shutdown, and egress.
"We take all ground emergencies seriously," Haas said.
The cause of fire and the extent of damage to the aircraft have not been disclosed.
The US Department of Defense temporarily grounded the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) fleet earlier this month for inspections following an oil leak on a US Marine Corps F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona.
Developed by Lockheed Martin in three variants, the F-35 JSF is a fifth-generation multi-role fighter aircraft with stealth capability, designed to conduct ground attacks, reconnaissance and air defence missions.
Image: An F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft gets refuelled at Eglin Air Force Base, US. Photo: courtesy of U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.