Two airmen servicing an F-35 Lightning II at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida were indirectly struck by lightning while working on the flight line on Wednesday evening, Air Force officials told Military.com.
- One of the airmen “was closing an F-35 canopy, and the other airman was winding up a grounding wire” while clearing the flight line ahead of an oncoming storm, 53rd Wing spokeswoman Maj. Ashley Conner told Military.com. “Flight line clearing procedures are conducted when lightning is observed or lighting warnings are issued.”
- Luckily, both of the airmen — assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron at Utah's Hill Air Force Base and sent to Eglin as part of the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron's Exercise Combat Hammer —were uninjured in the incident.
- The Air Force isn't the only branch increasingly concerned about lightning-on-Lightning threats: In early August, the Marine Corps put out a solicitation for portable lightning rods to draw lightning strikes away from F-35B aircraft parked at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan.
- “Since the F-35 as a composite type aircraft does not provide inherent passive lightning protection, the lightning rods being requested are needed for deploying aircraft to any expeditionary airfield in support of combat operations or training exercises that do not support all lightning protection requirements for the F-35B,” the Marine Corps says in its justification for the purchase.
- According to a 2012 Pentagon report, tests of the F-35 fuel tank inserting system a decade ago “identified deficiencies in maintaining the required lower fuel tank oxygen levels to prevent fuel tank explosions,” deficiencies which “required levels of protection from threat and from fuel tank explosions induced by lightning.”
- Luckily, the Eglin lightning strike was an explosion-free incident: Maj. Conner, the 53rd Wing spokeswoman, told Military.com that none of the aircraft or equipment on the flight line at the time of the strike suffered any damage.