F-35 Lightning II Crash: A $80M Lesson on Weather Preparedness

An F-35B Lightning II, the crown jewel of the U.S. Department of Defense’s arsenal, crashed in South Carolina due to severe weather conditions.

The pilot was forced to eject from the $80 million jet, which is part of the most expensive weapon system program in the U.S. Department of Defense.

On the fateful day, weather warnings were issued, cautioning against thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, and isolated tornadoes. Despite these warnings, the jet was allowed to embark on its training mission, leading to questions about the decision-making process within the Marine Corps.

The pilot, who miraculously survived the crash, was released from the hospital shortly after. However, the incident has sparked a wave of criticism and concern over the operational standards and readiness of the Marine Corps.

In response, the Marines announced a two-day grounding of its fleet, a move they referred to as a ‘safety stand-down’. This action was taken to ensure the maintenance of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.

This incident marks the third major Marine aircraft mishap in just six weeks. Earlier in August, three U.S. Marines tragically lost their lives in a V-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft crash during a training exercise in Australia.

Shortly after, another Marine Corps pilot was killed when his combat jet crashed near a San Diego base during a training flight.

The F-35B Lightning II is not just any aircraft. It belongs to the most expensive weapon system program in the U.S. Department of Defense, as per a May 2023 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The report also highlighted the Department of Defense is considering modernizing the engine of these jets, due to an ‘overtasked’ cooling system that requires the engine to operate ‘beyond its design parameters.’

This extra heat is reducing the engine’s life and adding $38 billion in maintenance costs.

Former Marine Dan Grazier, who has been warning about F-35 safety issues for years, suggested a software glitch or cyberattack could have caused the jet to malfunction. He pointed out there are thousands of penetration points in the system that a hacker could exploit.