The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is touted as the world’s most advanced warplane. However, it collided with something and the damages incurred are over two million dollars. The jet has been grounded, and repair work has started. So, what did it collide with? A bird! The pilot of the aircraft didn’t sustain any injury. However, the incident has highlighted how even the most advanced aircraft can be left devastated because of a series of unfortunate events.
The collision occurred on May 7th and at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. The F-35 Joint Strike fighter was assigned to the Japan-based Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 and made an impact with a bird during take-off. The pilot was able to taxi the aircraft off the runway safely. The incident was classified as ‘Class A’ by authorities in the military, which implies that at least damages of $2 million were sustained by the F-35 F-35 Joint Strike fighter which costs $120 million.
The Department of Defense’s Partners in Flight Program, tasked with conservation of migratory and resident birds on DoD lands, has estimated that the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps have a total of up to three thousand bird strikes each year. This is known as Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard (BASH). While most of these BASHs do not injure the pilot or cause damage to the aircraft, some of them can cause damages in excess of $75 million every year.
The DoD is serious about BASH and sends feather fragments, bits of tissue, and blood all over the world to Smithsonian Institution for identifying the species. Once the information is obtained, the military is able to enact different measures, thus effectively mitigating the BASH threat. The measures employed include habitat clearing, culling with firearms, and using propane-powered sonic cannons that can scare the birds away.
The Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni houses different kinds of wildlife, and according to surveys that were conducted in 2017, it has skylarks, ospreys, and even peregrine falcons nesting on the base. The base even has a dedicated web page that advises Marines and dependents to refrain from feeding the local wildlife as it could disrupt the balance of nature and would also attract animals to the base, thus creating risks for the air operations.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is the most expensive military program till this date and features three variations of the same jet that are created separately for the US Air Force, US Navy, Marine Corps, and any foreign customers. What do you think of this incident and the measures that are being taken to protect wildlife?