Bird smacks into Marine F-35B after takeoff, prompting pilot to land

by Vern Evans

A bird collided with a Marine fighter jet on Monday, prompting the pilot to land and damaging the pricey aircraft.

Immediately after taking off from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, the F-35B Lighting II came into contact with the bird, Capt. Tyler King, a spokesman for 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, said in an emailed statement to Marine Corps Times on Wednesday.

The jet landed safely at the air base, and no one was injured, King said. The mishap took place during routine training.

“Currently, the investigation of the event is ongoing and further details cannot be provided at this time,” the spokesman added.

The Naval Safety Command listed the incident as a Class A mishap, indicating that the aircraft sustained $2.5 million or more in damage. An F-35B costs more than $109 million, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office.

Between 2004 and 2019, the Marine Corps recorded more than 1,500 aviation incidents involving bird or animal strikes, Marine Corps Times previously reported. Fewer than 30 of those incidents left people with serious injuries or caused serious damage to aircraft.

In 2019, a Japan-based F-35B sustained what the Corps initially determined was more than $2 million in damage in a bird strike.

In 2022, a bird strike caused the engine of a Marine Corps F/A-18D to catch fire, leading the aircraft to crash onto the family property of the former South Carolina governor. Both pilots experienced what a Marine spokeswoman called “relatively minor injuries.”

Defense News reporter Stephen Losey contributed reporting.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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