The pilot of a South Korean F-35A jet fighter made an emergency “belly landing” at an air base on Tuesday (4 January) after its landing gear malfunctioned due to electronic issues, a South Korean Air Force spokesperson said. The stealth fighter crash-landed at 12:51 pm (local time) on the runway at an air force base in Seosan, an official told Yonhap News Agency.
Officials told Yonhap that unspecified issues with an avionics system caused the landing gear to malfunction, forcing the pilot to put the aircraft down with the landing gear up. “Its landing gear should have been down, but it wasn’t,” a South Korean Air Force official told Stars and Stripes. “So, it made a belly landing.”
This type of landing comes with a number of potential risks, not just to the aircraft but to the pilot as well, but in this case, the pilot “walked out from the plane,” the official explained. Yonhap reported that the pilot made it through the incident “unscathed.”
The South Korean Air Force has suspended F-35A flights as it investigates Tuesday’s crash-landing alongside the US military and manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Tuesday’s crash is believed to be a first for the South Korean fleet of F-35As, but it is not a first for the variant. In April 2019, for instance, a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force F-35A crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing the Japanese pilot.
South Korea received its first US-made F-35 in 2019 as part of an initial order of 40 of the single-engine jets, according to the plane’s manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. Versions of the F-35 are also flown by the US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well as US allies and partners including Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands and Israel. More countries have orders in for the jet.