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.