Marine F-35B And KC-130J Collide And Crash In Southern California (Updated)

Information is very fragmented at this time, so details are bound to change, but reports state that a military aircraft has crashed somewhere near the Salton Sea in Southern California. Witnesses said they saw things dropping from the sky, possibly under parachutes, not long before an aircraft impacted the ground. 

We reached out to NAF El Centro, which is located nearby in the Imperial Valley, who told us that military and law enforcement air assets are on the scene, but they do not know specifically what crashed or even if it was one of the many Navy and Marine aircraft, mainly F/A-18 Hornets and T-45 Goshawks, that frequent the base and the nearby airspace for training. Navy and Marine helicopters also are regular visitors.

Not long after we talked to the public affairs folks at NAF El Centro, they posted the following message on their Facebook page:


There are other unconfirmed reports that the crew was able to get out of the aircraft and were found alive not far from the crash site. It is possible that the aircraft dumped its ordnance and flares before it went down, which could have resulted in the confusion. The area is a Mecca for military aircraft training. NAF El Centro itself is best known for being the home of the Blue Angels during the team’s winter training. 

It is very possible this could have been a civilian aircraft instead of a military one, but as it sits now, military is what we are hearing. We also don’t know if there was just one aircraft involved or more than one, which is always possible, especially in this area. 

We will update this post as soon as more information comes available. 


We are hearing about a possible incident with an F/A-18 Hornet and a KC-130J. This image of a crashed KC-130J from VMGR-352 ‘Raiders’ out of MCAS Miramar has emerged in NAF El Centro’s Facebook post commenting feed: 


NAF El Centro says it was not an aircraft that originated from its base. KC-130J appears to have been involved, making a crash landing. It isn’t clear if there was another type involved or what it was, although a tactical fighter is what is being discussed. The KC-130J is the Marines’ organic aerial refueling asset which can be a very tricky and even outright dangerous business


We have received an official statement from the USMC: 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (Sep. 29, 2020) — At approximately 1600 it was reported that an F-35B made contact with a KC-130J during an air-to-air refueling evolution, resulting in the crash of the F-35B. The pilot of the F-35B ejected successfully and is currently being treated.

The KC-130J is on deck in the vicinity of Thermal Airport. All crew members of the KC-130J have been reported safe.

The official cause of the crash is currently under investigation. Updates will be provided as information becomes available.


KC-130J up over the crash site right now. The aircraft has a powerful FLIR system and can also provide additional command and communications functions. Additional surveillance functions are available via a bolt-on Harvest Hawk kit. 



A better shot of the KC-130J, some significant damage. This was likely a very wild ride down. Amazing everyone walked away. 


We have the air traffic control audio with RAIDER 50, the KC-130J, before and after the collision. It’s a must-hear. You can find this and future updates at our new post linked here. 

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