F-35 Crashes In New Mexico (Updated)

An F-35 Joint Strike Fighter crashed outside the airfield at the Albuquerque International Sunport which is co-located with Kirkland AFB in New Mexico, according to media reports and video from the crash site. The pilot survived and was transported to a local hospital with serious injuries, fire officials said.

The incident took place shortly before 2 p.m. local time, according to a spokesman Albuquerque Fire Rescue, who added that the pilot was transported to the hospital with serious injuries.

The aircraft was an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, according to imagery of the crash site and a recording of an air traffic control transmission.

The FAA deferred comment to the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines would not immediately comment. We will update this story with any information provided. It is not clear if this was indeed a USMC F-35 or one that belonged to the Navy. Air Force or a foreign operator.

Update: 6:50 PM –

Lockheed Martin, which makes the F-35, provided us with a statement confirming it was a Marine Corps variant that crashed.

“An F-35B enroute from Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base, California, crashed after a refueling stop at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The pilot safely ejected. Safety is our priority, and we will follow appropriate investigation protocol.”

Update 9:15 PM –

Kirtland Air Force Base released a new statement:

“An Air Force pilot ferrying an Air Force F-35 aircraft, departing from the Lockheed Martin facility at Naval Air Reserve Station, Fort Worth, Texas, landed at Kirtland at 1 p.m. to refuel and depart for Edwards Air Force Base, California.”

“The aircraft was involved in a crash southwest of the installation, at 1:48 p.m., today.”

“The pilot was transported to UNM Hospital and is in stable condition.”

“Emergency responders are continuing to assist at the crash site.”

“Additional information will be released as it becomes available.” 

Update: 10:11 PM –

Due to the discrepancy between information provided by Lockheed Martin and Kirtland Air Force Base about which variant of aircraft crashed and the service it belonged to, we edited the headline. Lockheed Martin said the jet was a Marine Corps F-35 while Kirtland said it was an Air Force fighter. We are investigating this situation and will update our story when more information becomes available.

Update: 4:30 AM –

New photos have emerged showing the stealth fighter moments before it crashed. The first of these confirms beyond doubt that it was a short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B version, as operated by the U.S. Marine Corps. Clearly visible is the open inlet for the Lift Fan on the rear fuselage.

Update 12:12 PM May 29 –

Lockheed Martin released more information about the jet:

“An F-35B enroute from Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base, California, crashed after a refueling stop at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. This was a U.S. Government-owned and-operated aircraft that was being flown by a government pilot who safely ejected. The aircraft was a test jet equipped with Technology Refresh 2 (TR-2) and was transferring to Edwards AFB for additional test equipment modification. Safety is our priority, and we will follow appropriate investigation protocols.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Kirtland Air Force Base acknowledged that its media release last night about the F-35 being an Air Force variant was wrong.

Update 2:42 PM –

The F-35 Joint Program Office responded to our query about who owned and flew the jet:

“An F-35B Lightning II aircraft crashed May 28 on departure from Albuquerque International Airport, New Mexico. The Defense Contract Management Agency pilot safely ejected and was receiving medical treatment and evaluation in Albuquerque. The aircraft was a developmental test aircraft being transferred from Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The government accepted (DD-250) the aircraft in September 2023 and it was recently undergoing modification to add additional test equipment. The investigation is ongoing.”

Update: 4:21 PM –

Kirtland Air Force Base issued another statement:

“An F-35B aircraft was involved in a crash southwest of the installation, at 1:48 p.m., May 28, 2024.”

“The U.S. Air Force pilot ferrying the aircraft, departed from the Lockheed Martin facility at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas, landed at Kirtland at 1 p.m. to refuel and depart for Edwards Air Force Base, California.”

“The pilot, assigned to the Defense Contract Management Agency, ejected prior to the crash and was transported to a local hospital. The member is in serious, but stable condition.”

“Emergency responders secured and ensured the safety of the area.”

“The cause of the crash is being reviewed by an Air Force Interim Safety Board. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.”

This is a developing story.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.

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