F-35 fighter jets face setback as South Korea grounds entire fleet

Following landing gear malfunction, South Korean Air Force suspends operations of Lockheed Martin jets until probe results.

ISTANBUL (AA) – In a major setback to the F-35 fighter jet systems, South Korea on Wednesday grounded its entire fleet of the aircraft, a day after one of the units faced a malfunction that forced an emergency landing, according to local media.

The South Korean Air Force decided to suspend operations of its F-35A fleet, purchased from the US in 2019, a joint probe with Washington yields results, the Yonhap News agency reported.

Shin Ok-Chul, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Korean Air Force, shared details of the accident with a lawmaker.

The Air Force rushed to splash special foam on the runway after the pilot signaled that he was landing the US-made jet on its fuselage — the main body of the jet — instead of ejecting after facing what military officials have called “avionic system issues.”

Escaping unscathed, the pilot also managed to land without the jet suffering any serious damage.

This was reportedly the first time an F-35 jet, manufactured by the US defense firm Lockheed Martin, sustained such a belly-landing. Seoul is scheduled to receive 10 more units of the jet from the US under a 2014 deal.

South Korean officials revealed that the jets faced a momentary landing gear malfunction.

The pilot had taken flight from an air base in Seosan, 151 kilometers (94 miles) south of Seoul.


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