The Navy’s next-generation F-35 fighter jet reached an unwanted milestone last month when a carrier-based Lightning II suffered a major airborne mishap.

It took place on Aug. 22, when an F-35C from the “Rough Raiders” of Strike Fighter Squadron 125 was being refueled in-flight by a F/A-18F Super Hornet operating from the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, according to Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces.

“During the refueling, part of the refueling basket broke off, and that debris was ingested into the engine of the F-35," he said.

The basket is part of the appendage that extends out from the Super Hornet to refuel receiving aircraft, Flanders said.

The Super Hornet was flying in front of the F-35 during the mishap, and the broken basket flew right into the fighter’s single engine.

No pilots were injured in the incident, Flanders said.

The F-35 was able to safely return to the carrier, while the Super Hornet flew to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia.

“The fact that the (F-35) was able to return to the carrier is a testament to its survivability,” Flanders said.

Its engine will need to be replaced, he said, and the damage will cost roughly $12.7 million to repair.

Authorities continue to probe the the accident.

Second only to birds getting sucked into jet engines, refueling basket-related incidents are the most common type of engine ingestion mishap, Flanders said.

The Navy is working to get the F-35C declared operational by early next year.

Although critics have complained about cost overruns, production delays and other snafus dogging the F-35 program, the military services insist that it’s the best strike fighter ever made and will perform well for decades.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at

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