U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Nose Gear Collapse Incident At Kadena Air Base


F-35B nose gear collapse
A screenshot from NHK media outlet showing the F-35B after the nose gear collapse. (via NRH)

The 5th gen aircraft suffered a nose gear down collapse during towing.

An F-35B Lightning II, belonging to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 ‘Green Knights’, was involved in an incident on the ground at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, on Dec. 1, 2022.

According to a statement released by the 1st Marine Air Wing of the U.S. Marine Corps quoted by the Japanese NHK media outlet, around 1:40PM LT, the F-35B made a precautionary landing at Kadena Air Base due to possible electrical problems. The aircraft was being towed when the nose wheel broke, leaving the 5th generation aircraft with its nose on the taxiway.

A camera installed by NHK showed the F-35B nose down on the taxiway of Kadena Air Base just after 3:00PM. While the U.S. Marine Corps is investigating the cause of the incident.

The F-35 nose gear has a single wheel that retracts into a NLG wheel well immediately under the cockpit; the extent of the damage (and the subsequent cost) is unknown (the aircraft’s valuable Electro-Optical Targeting System or EOTS – might be heavily damaged). According to the U.S. Air Force, Collins Aerospace is the primary manufacture of all landing gear components.

The incident is strikingly similar to another one, that occurred to a USAF F-35A in 2018. In that event, an F-35A Lightning II, assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, experienced an in-flight emergency and returned to base. The aircraft landed safely and parked when the front nose gear collapsed. Another gear collapse incident occurred to another F-35A on the runway after landing at Hill AFB on Jun. 8, 2020. The investigation reports on the previous incidents have not been publicly released.

VMFA-121 is based at MCAS Iwakuni where it relocated from MCAS Miramar on Jan. 9, 2017.

David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


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