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Bird Strike Forces South Korea to Retire A US$85 Million F-35A Fighter

The cost of repairing the ROKAF's F-35A fighter aircraft amounts to approximately 140 billion Won or US$107 million (RM481 million), surpassing its acquisition cost from the United States, which totaled 110 billion Won or US$85 million (RM382 million).

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has officially announced the retirement of one of its F-35A fighter aircraft due to damages it sustained in a bird strike incident that occurred in January 2022.

According to Yonhap news agency, ROKAF, in collaboration with the fifth-generation fighter aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin, conducted an analysis revealing that approximately 300 components of the aircraft suffered damage as a result of the bird strike.

The damages encompassed various areas, including the airframe, structure, engine and control and navigation systems.

“Considering the high cost and prolonged duration required for repairs, coupled with safety concerns, the ROKAF Evaluation Committee has decided that it is more prudent to terminate the service of the aircraft rather than undertake repairs.”

“The plan to terminate the service of the F-35A will be executed with approval from the Ministry of Defense,” as stated by ROKAF, which expressed surprise at the severity of the damage suffered by the aircraft.

F-35A

The estimated cost of repairing the fighter aircraft is approximately 140 billion Won, equivalent to around US$107.6 million (RM481 million).

This repair cost significantly exceeds the acquisition cost of the aircraft from the United States, which amounted to 110 billion Won or US$85 million (RM382 million).

“Due to the financial gap between the repair cost and the acquisition cost, the South Korean Air Force believes it is more practical to terminate/dispose of the service of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft.”

The unfortunate F-35A fighter was one of the 40 fifth-generation fighter aircraft in the possession of ROKAF, utilizing conventional runways for takeoff and landing.

 In response to escalating threats of nuclear ballistic missiles and continuous provocations from Pyongyang, the South Korean government had previously decided to acquire an additional 20 F-35A fifth-generation fighter aircraft for the ROKAF.

Bird Strike

ROKAF has stated its intention to assess the optimal way to continue benefiting from the ill-fated F-35A, including utilizing them as learning resources for technicians and technical personnel.

The incident, which occurred on January 4, 2022, involved the fighter aircraft colliding with an eagle, estimated to weigh 10kg, at an altitude of 330 meters shortly after taking off from Cheongju Air Base in northern Chungcheong.

 The eagle was ingested into the left engine’s air intake, causing damage to the hydraulic and power distribution systems critical to the aircraft’s power and landing capabilities.

 The ROKAF’s F-35A had to perform an emergency belly landing at Seosan Air Base in northern Chungcheong without utilizing its landing system. — DSA

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