The F-35A fighter took off at South Korea's Cheongju Air Base, about 147 km south of Seoul, on August 21. Photo: Yonhap

The Korean Air Force eliminated F-35A fighters that collided with birds last year because repair costs were higher than buying new ones.

On December 1, the Korean Air Force announced a comprehensive assessment showing that the F-35A lost 300 parts after colliding with a bird and then landing on the runway at Seosan base in January 2022, including the fuselage frame. aircraft, engines, control and navigation systems.

Due to high costs, long repair times and other safety issues, the Korean Air Force’s evaluation committee concluded that this F-35A should be scrapped instead of repaired. This committee will submit the plan to the Korean Ministry of National Defense for approval.

According to Korean defense officials, the cost of repairing the crashed F-35A is estimated at 107.6 million USD, higher than the new purchase price of 84.7 million USD. The Korean Air Force is considering a plan to utilize this F-35A, including as a training tool for technicians.

The accident occurred in January 2022 when a falcon weighing about 10 kg crashed into the left air intake of the F-35A, causing the bulkhead to pop off and fly into the weapons compartment, damaging the hydraulic system. and power cables.

The impact caused the F-35A to be unable to release its landing gear, forcing the pilot to land on his stomach and further damaging the fuselage. The F-35A pilot was not injured in the accident.

The F-35A was developed for the Air Force and is the smallest and lightest variant in the F-35 stealth fighter line. This fighter model has much higher maneuverability than the Marine Corps F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C. The F-35A is also the only F-35 variant equipped with a 25 mm GAU-22/A cannon.

Korean Air Force has 40 F-35As in service. The Korean government has 25 F-35A fighters this year. The US State Department approved the contract in September 2023 with a total value of 5.06 billion USD.

South Korea and the US are discussing a contract to buy F-35B fighters with the ability to take off on short runways and land vertically.