The engine of an F-35C was damaged while receiving fuel from an F/A-18F Super Hornet, US Navy officials have confirmed.

It is understood that debris from an aerial refuelling basket was ingested into the F-35Cs engine intake, resulting in the damage, US Naval Air Forces Atlantic spokesman Cmdr. Dave Hecht said on Tuesday to press.

According to USNI, damage to the F-35C was reported as a Class A mishap – the most serious type for a military aircraft. An incident is classified as Class A when an aircraft suffers more than $2 million in damage, is totally destroyed or involves a serious or fatal injury to the aircrew.

“The damage to the F-35 was above the $2 million threshold. A new F135 engine for the JSF costs about $14 million, according to the most recent contract award to engine builder Pratt & Whitney.”

According to Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for US Naval Air Forces:

“During the refueling, part of the refueling basket broke off, and that debris was ingested into the engine of the F-35.”

The basket is part of the appendage that extends out from the Super Hornet to refuel receiving aircraft, Flanders said. It is understood that this is relatively common in the fleet.

The US Navy expects to achieve initial operational capability for the F-35C in February 2019.


  1. This is why the US navy took some convincing on the F35 due to its single engine.

    ‘It is understood that this is relatively common in the fleet.’ Not sure what this means, if it means ingestion of the basket is common then it only a matter of time before they lose an entire a/f.

      • (Chris H) Nigel – Forgive me but this is just you making a mountain out of a mole hill to suit your anti-F-35 agenda. That GIF shows the boom operator lifting the boom before it separates from the probe breaking the tip as designed in the process. It also demonstrates the dangers of attaching fixed length of drogue hose to the end of an under fuselage fixed boom system when they work better from variable drum mounted hoses out in less turbulent air under wing tips. Indeed your article says it is a test carried out by test pilots and is ‘dangerous’ because it IS a test.

        What don’t you quite understand about testing? They do things to establish the full envelope so operational pilots can safely operate within it. And to find those limits they have to exceed them. Please stop using every little event as ‘proof’ of anything. the testing environment is not the same by a country mile as operational sorties

    • Nigel – I do think the F35B is a good aircraft if you compare it to the Harrier then the UK is getting quite a shift in capability, clearly the refuelling is a concern but it did not stop the UK F35s crossing the Atlantic with numerous refuels in flight.

      I think the biggest mistake of the program was making one size fits all. The costs saving of using a single airframe have not be realised. The US navy needed a twin engine F18 replacement and the US and other air forces needed an F16 replacement, the f22 should have been continued to replace the F15 but with the same drive on costs that the F35 program faced in its latter stages.

      They could have kept common development of some aspects like the F135 engine for the single engine aircraft. Radar, helmet and other sensors could have been common.

      I doubt you’ll ever see this approach take again the lesson has been learnt.

        • (Chris H) – No they didn’t Nigel. So a pilot had a couple of goes at a basket. So what? Not a fault in the F-35 at all. Go check how often a Tonka or a Tiffy has two or more goes…
          I have responded to this exaggeration of yours below in more detail to cover your wider comments but the refuelling probe is made by Cobham in the UK. It is deliberately designed to sheer safely at a given stress. Added to that it is almost identical to that fitted to the Typhoon. Should we not buy any more of those?

          • A very good question Chris. Should we update the USAF that this is in fact meant to happen? or is it simply an issue with the F35?

            “Newly Identified Technical Risks

            Aerial refueling probes: The F-35B and F-35C variants use a “hose and
            drogue” system where an aerial refueling tanker aircraft extends a long,
            flexible refueling hose and a parachute-like metal basket that provides
            stability, and the receiving aircraft then connects to the drogue basket
            with its extendable refueling probe, as shown in figure 10. From April
            2014 to August 2017, 21 incidents have occurred where the F-35’s aerial
            refueling probes broke off while conducting aerial refueling, leading to a
            restriction of aerial refueling operations. The Navy and Air Force are
            investigating the issue and implementing improvements to reduce these


          • (Chris H) Nigel – I am really disappointed you are pursuing this blind alley of argument. Did you not read your own link from Rogoway? Did you not read my link? I even quoted it in text on here. And forgive me stating the obvious the USAF do not operate Probe & Drogue refuelling on their F-35As – Its boom refuelled. So your point was? We do not need to ‘update the USAF’ at all because they already know what Cobham were asked to deliver. And did you never think that in testing they deliberately ‘test’ when tips break off to see if they perform as expected? And then test a higher stressed version again and again?How many of those 21 ‘failuyres’ in 3 1/2 years were in the testing environment and how many on operations? I suspect they were all testing given no F-35C is anywhere near operational and the USMC only declared limited IOC in July 2015 which of itself does not mean all testing has stopped

            We do not have any issues (other than normal air refuelling risks) with Tornados, Typhoons, Sentrys, A400s and who knows what else with probe and drogue supplied by Cobham and it is especially relevant given the F-35 version is, apart from the lower break off stress point, the same as a Typhoon one.

            Less knowledgeable people float criticisms of the QE because ‘it has no aircraft’, ‘it has no CIWS’, ‘Only one Type 23’ etc. Because they forget it is still working up as a combat ship and still on trials and certification. The same applies to the F-35 and I regret to say you have fallen into the same trap because you have an agenda and look for anything and everything negative about it. The F-35 is still being tested and developed. Its why we have 3 permanently based there.

            Contrary to your misleading statement we had NO issues with any of our 9 F-35s that transited the Atlantic to Marham. Neither have any of the Italian built aircraft delivered the other way or indeed the USMC and RAF F-35Bs that came across for their first displays in June 2016 when each aircraft was refuelled 15 times! Look out fro the Union Flag on the cockpit top in one of the RAF ones:


            Move on Nigel my friend because on this you are losing credibility

    • i’m sorry, but quoting sputnik news? that’s like quoting the daily mail…. plus given you’ve had a go at the f35 on numerous previous articles, even when it wasn’t even part of the article anyone could see you leap on this…. fact is it sucked a basket through its engine from the sounds of it….that’s not gonna do any airplane any favors!

      but hey, if it keeps you happy….

      • Try this fearlesstunafish

        As a UK taxpayer, I do not wish to be paying for an aircraft in large numbers (138) which will be of little value after 2030 and will not be fully operational until 2025 when we can be investing in upgrading Typhoon now and looking at Tempest/Taranis for our future capability.

        “Here’s what the new DOTE, Robert Behler, says about the F-35 Joint Strike fighter in his office’s latest annual report:

        F-35B Tires
        The heaviest of the three aircraft, the F-35B, didn’t only shake apart under stress-testing more quickly than the other two aircraft (see below), but, as the DOTE notes, “The program has struggled to find a tire for the F-35B that is strong enough for conventional high-speed landings, soft enough to cushion vertical landings, and still light enough for the existing aircraft structure. Average F-35B tire life is below 10 landings, well below the requirement for 25 conventional full-stop landings. The program is still working this problem, which will not be resolved within SDD.”

        Finally, Behler’s report point to a refueling problem faced by the F-35B and F-35C.

        The air refueling probe “tips are breaking too often, resulting in squadrons imposing restrictions on air refueling. The program is still investigating this problem.” I hear that the program is focussing on improved maintenance for the hose reel mechanism, as well as design changes to the probe.”

        Read the full report here if keeps you happy!

          • In which case why is there so much concern by senior US military officials about Chinese and Russian technology being able to defeat it after 2030?

            “The U.S. Air Force is finalizing technology requirements for a new fighter jet to enter service sometime in the 2030s. Known as “Penetrating Counter Air,” the new fighter will replace the F-22 Raptor and maintain American air superiority in future conflicts. The sixth=generation fighter will incorporate a number of new technologies that for now exist only on the drawing board.

            Citing the existence of advanced Russian weapons such as the S-400 air defense missile system and the Su-57 (formerly PAK-FA) fighter, Air Combat Command commander General Mike Holmes told Aviation Week & Space Technology that while the F-22 and F-35 will continue to be improved, “Eventually you will run into a limit in your ability to improve those platforms, and so we need to have something else ready.”


          • @Nigel Collins.

            There is concern about the ability of the Russians and Chinese technology defeating all military assets in the future. That is how a military thinks and rightly so. The F35 is an astonishing aircraft with amazing capabilities. However it is not infallible and is not expected to be so. Look at the Challenger 2 tank. It is amazing. One sat there being fired at for an hour by anti-tank missiles, rpgs small arms fire etc before being rescued fixed (in a very small amount of time) and put back into action. However one drove over a large IED and was penetrated. If we stand still and assume everything is perfect then we will fail big time. War has always meant constantly developing. Nothing is ever perfect.

            Your comment is utterly pointless and shows you are either a troll or have no idea how warfare works.

        • i have read more or less everything you’ve linked too already, and yes, the f35 has issues, just like every other new modern combat aircraft in history, but honestly at this point its too big to fail, and you can moan all you want, but given the weight behind the program the issues will be worked out eventually….

          and given your want to not unnecessarily waste taxpayer money, surely you should at least be glad that were holding off on buying ours until the worst of the issues are resolved, as opposed to going all in immediately like the mass media seems to expect

          i am fully onboard the tempest/taranis bandwagon…. i really dont know why we don’t have taranis operational already….. if we were the us that would’ve immediately moved to the “black” budget and become operational!

          • I have a distinct feeling that @Nigel is either a bot or a troll… or both. The @Nigel Collins bot simply exists to post rubbish about the F35 program probably because Russia has not proper stealth jet of its own.

      • Come back with some useful answers to the questions posed in these factual US based articles on the ability of this aircraft Lee 1 instead of making yourself sound like an idiot.

        • If I were a Russian bot Lee 1, the last thing I would be pointing out are the endless shortfalls of the F35 documented by the Pentagon, DOD, DOT&E, Senior US military officials and respected news outlets. Or are you saying these are Russians as well?

          Come back with facts not fiction.

          • Lol….

            That is precisely what Russian bots do! Along with spreading news from Sputnik and RT…

            You seem to completely overlook that all large complex military projects have issues and all have long term plans for functionality. Typhoon had issues, Our carriers are having some issues, Astutes had issues, Tornado had issues. You simply can’t build such complex projects without issues. Also it is very common for block 1 aircraft to have missing features and for the subsequent blocks to have various upgrades and fixes. It is also common for the block 1 aircraft to be subsequently brought up to future block level.

            You seem to overlook all these common things in order to push your agenda.

        • (Chris H) Nigel – referencing the particular Tyler Rogoway link to which you refer his report actually makes no criticism of the F-35B refuelling as such. Neither does it say (as you infer) that the UK aircraft had ‘issues’ while transiting to the UK. One pilot had a couple of dabs at a basket. Happens every day and twice on Sundays with this type of refuelling system and no one but you thinks its a problem. Rogoway doesn’t either. He makes clear that probes breaking off has been a deliberate design feature to err on the side of safety in these earlier aircraft. We are still in LRIP don’t forget. Better a probe breaks and they know why than something more serious. He also comments that the UK Voyager trails a more stable basket than does the Extender. And if baskets are breaking in bits on F-18s ‘regularly’ that again isn’t an F-35C issue its a piss poor maintenance regime on US carriers.

          And by the way the refuelling probe and extending system is actually supplied from the UK by Cobham and is almost identical to Typhoon. Not too many issues with those are there? Quote:
          “Also at the press event were some of the handful of British companies building actual chunks of the F-35 itself. These included Cobham, which makes the critical ball joint used in the F-35B’s air-to-air refuelling probe. As the firm explained to El Reg, anyone can make a pipe and bolt it to an aircraft – but their unique weak link is designed to shear and cut off fuel flow only “under very specific loads”, such as a pilot in an emergency needing to pull away from the tanker ASAP.”

          By all means share an opinion and support it with links but on this one I fear you have both misinterpreted events and fabricated an issue that doesn’t exist. I know you can do better Nigel so keep it honest?

          • As posted above to your comments Chris,

            “A very good question Chris. Should we update the USAF that this is in fact meant to happen? or is it simply an issue with the F35?

            Newly Identified Technical Risks

            Aerial refueling probes: The F-35B and F-35C variants use a “hose and
            drogue” system where an aerial refueling tanker aircraft extends a long,
            flexible refueling hose and a parachute-like metal basket that provides
            stability, and the receiving aircraft then connects to the drogue basket
            with its extendable refueling probe, as shown in figure 10. From April
            2014 to August 2017, 21 incidents have occurred where the F-35’s aerial
            refueling probes broke off while conducting aerial refueling, leading to a
            restriction of aerial refueling operations. The Navy and Air Force are
            investigating the issue and implementing improvements to reduce these


      • Very true! Although this isn’t a comment on what Nigel was saying.

        I’ve just been watching some propaganda tv. It showed Putin addressing a load of men infront of a load of tanks at Vostok 2018 and then went back to the studio for a discussion along the lines of, “The Americans wouldn’t like to face this” and the “UK has always had it easy in the World Wars because it’s an island nation”.

        The inferiority complex of Putin and his gang has no limits. It’s hilarious to watch.

        • And now they are showing the two Salisbury killers and making them look like angels and nothing more than tourists. And much of the Russian public laps it all up and believes it. But it’s really nothing more than, “Look here West, here are your two killers and you can’t touch them”.

          • Indeed. They are somehow trying to say they came to London, 2 days later went all the way to Salisbury to look at the cathedral and then decided that it was too cold and wet so came back to London and left for Russia the same day! That sounds like a strange thing for tourists to do…

        • And I can already tell you Russia’s next step: the two killers will be given medals at some Kremlin ceremony for serving the motherland and then given places in the Duma (Russian parliament) or maybe even tv shows. At the very least they will appear on tv shows putting their false and concocted side of the story. And the public will again lap it up.

          • (Chris H) – As we speak I suspect the lads in Hereford are planning their next gig to re-acquaint said Russians with Salisbury …

          • Agreed. I think the size of MI6 for example is way too small. The Russian G.U. (still known usually as the GRU) has 10s of thousands of people working in it and even has its own special forces attached to it.

            As much as cooperation is good with partners, we have to make sure we can defend ourselves and hit back on our own if need be. When push comes to shove will our current partners really go all out for us?

            Chris H – I hope so! I don’t see it happening though. But I really hope so.

          • Chris I very much doubt it.

            I’d imagine the SAS have their hands full in the Middle East and on standby in the UK.

            The RRW that support SIS I doubt conduct operations on Russian soil.

          • DM –

            The KGB acted as both an internal and external security agency. When the USSR collapsed the KGB was then eventually superseeded by the FSB and the SVR.

            The FSB is the internal security service, i.e. like our MI5. Although it has a wide-ranging remit.

            The SVR is the foreign intelligence service and works together with the G.U. (which as I stated earlier is often still known as the GRU). The former is more for civilian linked spheres of activiity and the latter is military in nature.

            These organisations are very large, unlike ours, ie the FSB alone has around 70,000 people including its own special forces and a further 150,000+ border guards.

            These organisations are constantly evolving as Putin tries to get rid of the dead wood and I presume is trying to make sure they keep loyal to him.

          • Thank’s antidote happy to be corrected I didn’t realise FSB was internal only.

            Fascinating stuff.

          • Also, unlike our security services, all Russian security services are considered military services, but this dosen’t mean they are under the control of the Russian Ministry of Defence.

          • A note the FSB while mostly internal will conduct external operations such as electronic surveillance and counter-intelligence (if the operation began in Russia itself).

  2. Ppl on this site talk like they know how the F35 been built and all its secrets unfortunately nobody who post on this page know nothing about the plane a little knowledge is dangerous . More world class design boffins on this site i don’t know why they don’t employ you to build it

  3. I think people should all be very careful with accusations of being Bots and Russian and all the rest just because opinions differ.

    Agree plenty of other programs had problems.

    My main issue with F35 is not the capability itself but it’s cost, how many we will buy, and how their purchase impacts other assets.

    • (Chris H) I am not biting at the Bot comments here Nigel as I don’t like it when things get personal. However can you as an F-35 expert (in your own opinion) please tell me how you land an F-35C or F-35A in a car park, forest clearing, football stadium or on a carrier with no CATOBAR?

      All the above having been done over 48 years ago by the Harrier – the F-35B is a 5th Gen Harrier .. so maybe compare like for like? Only the US Navy and USMC will buy the F-35C but more countries are buying the F-35B.

      And secondly tell us what STOVL aircraft other than the ‘B’ is available to the UK and which will make more money for us manufacturing 20% of it than it will cost buying 138 of them?

      • Can you show me where i’ve said i’m an expert on the F35 please Chris?

        I thought we were purchasing them to land on the carriers not at White Hart Lane, but I’ll keep an eye out. I’ll also remember not to park in Waitrose on Saturday too just in case!

        In relation to CATOBAR it’s something we will need sooner rather than later as common sense dictates, you don’t place all your eggs in one basket (F35) particularly when it’s a long way from being fully operational and of any real use.

        In relation to profits, given the fact that it still has a considerable number of defects to be fixed (around 1000) and these are the one we know about today, why would you even consider buying 138 of them?

        Harrier concept began in 1957, 18 April 1969, the Harrier GR.1 officially entered service with the RAF.

        F-35 development started in 1992 first flight on 11 June 2008 and still not fully operational. And as you quite rightly say Chris, “We are still in LRIP don’t forget.”

        Not sure I nor the pilot would agree entirely with this comment “Better a probe breaks and they know why than something more serious.”! To my knowledge they are still trying to find out the cause, “a Class A mishap – the most serious type for a military aircraft.”

        Also looking forward to your reply on the refueling issues that I answered in relation to your posts above. That’s one fault they can possibly strike of the list of many as the US clearly think it is (see attached report above).

        PS. I know you detest personal comments!

        • (Chris H) Nigel – I have fully responded to all your posts where needed. 5 in total and 2 others. Please read back.

          As regards your humorous image of an F-35 landing at White Hart Lane? Well at least it could while the two others couldn’t thus proving my point. Harriers used a football stadium in Gulf War I as it happens. Don’t forget a Harrier won the trans Atlantic race in May 1969 by taking off from RAF ST Pancras and landing in New York Basin 40 years before Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger tried it!

          The probe ‘breaking’ is as a result of a lower stress point being built in to the F-35 versions of Cobhams proven system. And it is patently obvious that it is better to sheer a probe in a situation than have the two aircraft fighting each other unable to separate. Its why Cobham build this in to EVERY system anyway. Yes Typhoons have the same system!

          Well you say there are 1,000 defects and you will find some random link as you always do but I was referring to the basic economic fact that we (as in UK manufacturing) will earn more from the parts we manufacture here for EVERY F-35 built in the USA, Japan and Italy than we will spend even if we do buy 138. Basically we are getting 5th Gen aircraft for nothing and making profit as well. What is not to like?

          Now as I have said before I think our buying policy is a sensible way to go as the delayed purchasing means the price reduces with every LRIP block. If the F-35 proves to be the dud you say it is then we just stop buying. We are the customer not the promoter. Now how us just buying say 96 will affect BAEs contract I don’t know but later aircraft will have any bugs fixed before manufacture so we will progressively be buying better aircraft. Being ‘first’ isn’t always a sensible idea

          Give this up Nigel and move on to the many more and safer criticisms of this aircraft because on this one you are peddling a myth. I am still to be convinced about the wider F-35 programme and can not see the point of the F-35A for the UK but for the UK right here and right now the F-35B is exactly the right aircraft to work with Typhoon and the QEs next year. To be honest I couldn’t give a flying one (excuse the pun) how much the Yanks waste on the ‘A’ and ‘C’ versions.

          • “Well you say there are 1,000 defects and you will find some random link as you always do”

            June 2018
            United States Government Accountability Office
            Report to Congressional Committees
            After 17 years in development?

            “As of January 2018, the F-35 program had 966 open deficiencies—111 category 1 and 855 category 2. At least 25 category 1 deficiencies and 165 category 2 deficiencies will not be resolved before full-rate


            Over the past year, DOD has made progress in completing the F-35
            development program. However, in its rush to cross the finish line, the
            program has made some decisions that are likely to affect aircraft
            performance and reliability and maintainability for years to come.
            Specifically, the program office plans to resolve a number of critical
            deficiencies after full-rate production. Resolving these deficiencies
            outside of the developmental program may contribute to additional
            concurrency costs, which also carries affordability implications.
            Additionally, the program’s reliability and maintainability metrics inform the program on the probability of failures and how much time the aircraft will be in maintenance. It stands to reason that less-reliable aircraft require more maintenance and parts than planned and might result in the aircraft not being available for operations. If reliability targets are not met, the military services and the taxpayer will have to settle for aircraft that are less reliable, more costly, and take longer to maintain. Given that the program’s long-term affordability is already in question, ensuring the aircraft is reliable by each variant’s planned maturity is paramount.

            Finally, since the program office has not yet established an acquisition
            program baseline—or a solid business case—for its modernization plans, pushing forward puts the program at risk of repeating mistakes from the original baseline F-35 development. The program office has requested funding for modernization before it has the requisite knowledge to match its proposed requirements to available resources.
            Such an approach would leave Congress without key information to make decisions regarding the allocation of resources. We continue to stand by our previous recommendation that the Secretary of Defense hold a milestone B review and manage F-35 modernization as a separate and distinct major defense acquisition program with its own acquisition program baseline and regular cost, schedule, and performance reports to the Congress.

            While DOD disagreed with this recommendation, stating that
            the F-35 is the most closely managed system within the department,
            implementing this recommendation could provide greater transparency
            and oversight.

            Congress should consider providing in future appropriations that no funds shall be available for obligation for F-35 Block 4 until DOD provides a report setting forth its complete acquisition program baseline for the Block 4 effort to the congressional defense committees. Such a report must reflect findings from an independent cost estimate,
            • technology readiness assessments,
            • a test and evaluation master plan,
            • a system engineering plan,
            • a preliminary design review, and
            • an approved acquisition strategy.”

            A bottomless pit with no end in sight seventeen years later.

            I would take the time to read the full report before opting to buy more than 48 aircraft.


  4. Janes Defence
    March 2018

    The Pentagon is facing a major potential F-35 Block 4/C2D2 cost increase
    This could add between USD6.9 billion and USD12.5 billion more to the Pentagon’s most expensive platform.

    The Pentagon is facing a cost increase for what was known as Block 4 modernisation of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) ranging between USD6.9 billion and USD12.5 billion, according to a key lawmaker and a Defense Department official.

    Subcommittee Ranking Member Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts said the total cost for C2D2 could reach USD16.4 billion through FY 2024

    And somebody has to pay for it.

    • Nigel – this is all water under the bridge, there no other way forward other than the F35B for the UK. Any new airframe is a decade away at least. We could go CATOBAR and buy F18s or Rafale’s but that money would be better invested in our own 6th Gen airframe.

      You can point to new tech from potential peer adversaries negating stealth but ask this, why do Russia and China as well as allies such as Korea, Japan, Turkey, France, Germany have stealth designs in production or on the table if the tech is outdated? Because its not.

      The F35B will be good at what it does and better than the Harrier. I had my doubts originally about the F35B but if anything the A and C were compromised by the STOVL requirement of the B version and not the other way around. The UK has already found that SBRVL can improve the life of the F35Bs airframe and engine and I’m sure knowing the British innovative nature well fine more ways to get more out of the F35B. Lastly with a new variable bypass engine it will get more range, lower heat signature and super cruise in the next decade.

  5. (Chris H) Nigel – And back on the subject of this article you have added nothing to show any major fault at all. Having two dabs at a basket isn’t ‘an issue’ as you alleged with our own F-35s. And you have failed to repsond to my many links to show the stres point of the Cobham delivered refuelling probe has been set low for a reason. All you have done is copy / pasted mostly the same things over and again and mostly nothing to do with refuelling. And when I tried to explain your difficulty in this topic you go off on yet another copy / paste about everything else.

    We all know the F-35 is still under development and has problems. And as I have said before if its the dud you say it is we then stop buying after the first 48. Having said that as long as the aircraft delivers what WE in the UK need I don’t care how many $ Bns the US or Australia or whoever spend. If we have been misled over what we are buying and the future software costs then we can tell LM to shove it but given the amount of software written here I am sure we could deliver whatever the RAF and FAA need. We do not need to blindly follow the Yanks.

    Please focus on the topic in hand which is refuelling. There is NO issue with refuelling and all you have done is post random GIFs and links to film clips that prove nothing for your argument. I have repeatedly and with factual links argued your statements on refuelling down my friend. So please just stop. Move on…

  6. Omigod! Damage during refueling, never happened in history of air -air refueling, ever!
    Obsolete, huge waste, social needs, militarism, pretentious, admirals egos, Russia no threat, …babble, babble , babble……


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