By Gu Min Chul
The Republic of Korea Air Force has to make hard choices about what to do with the damaged F-35 fighter jet. According to local media, Air Force officials have faced a difficult dilemma regarding repairing one of the broken F-35s, which collided with an eagle during takeoff and was severely damaged.
The Korean Times quoted the source saying the repair bill for the damaged F-35A fighter jet is estimated to be over 100 billion won ($76 million) ― close to its original price tag of $100 million. The estimation came after talks between the Republic of Korea Air Force and Lockheed Martin, the U.S. defense giant which developed the stealth fighter.
The South Korean authority has been discussing with Lockheed Martin regarding what to do with the jet. After considering the economic and safety ramifications, a decision to trash or repair it will be made, the official said. In 2022 the jet took off from a Korean military airfield in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province and was flying at an altitude of 330 meters when an eagle collided with it.
According to the Air Force, the big bird went through the jet’s bulkhead and was sucked into the machine’s left vacuum pump, destroying hydraulic pipes and electricals for the jet’s landing gear.
The pilot, with the landing gear destroyed, had to make a belly landing, which requires skilled maneuvering for a successful touchdown without destroying the plane. After emptying the fuel tank in midair, the pilot managed to bring the jet down to Seosan Airbase in South Chungcheong Province. No human casualties resulted from the accident.