Lightning Rods Protect F-35 Lightnings from Lightning at Exercise Northern Lightning (excerpt)
(Source: The Drive; posted August 17, 2020)
By Joseph Trevithick
F-35A fighters sit on the ramp protected by mobile lightning rods at the Northern Lightning Exercise last week. Claims that the aircraft was no longer vulnerable to lightning strike after a fix to its fuel system seem to have been greatly exaggerated. (USAF photo)
In what can only be described as the height of irony, personnel at Volk Field in Wisconsin have erected lightning rods to protect F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, also known by their official nickname Lightning II, from, well, lightning. On top of all that, this is taking place during a major joint exercise called Northern Lightning.

This year's iteration of Northern Lightning kicked off on Aug. 10 and is set to run through the end of this week. The F-35As from Vermont's 158th Fighter Wing's 134th Fighter Squadron, the first Air National Guard unit to receive the type, are not the only aircraft taking part. Air National Guard F-16C/D Vipers, as well as F-22 Raptors and T-38 Talons from the Air Force's active component, U.S. Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, and L-139E aggressors from private contractor Draken International, are among the main players participating in the exercise.

The stunning image of five F-35s sitting underneath three lightning rods, seen at the top of this story and in full below, was taken on Aug. 11 "after a day of flying training," according to the caption. The lightning rods appear to be versions of LBA Technology, Inc's portable PLP-38-MOB model, which the Marine Corps also purchased to shield their F-35Bs from lightning strikes at deployed locations in 2018, which you can read about in more detail in this past War Zone piece. (end of excerpt)


Click here for the full story, on The Drive website.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: After claiming to have fixed the issue, the F-35 Joint Program Office has apparently given up trying to end the F-35’s vulnerability to lightning strike, which has led to the F-35 being forbidden to fly less than 25 miles from a thunderstorm.
We have previously covered this issue here and here.
So, the situation hansn’t progressed much since 2012, when the Pentagon’s Director Operational Test and Evaluation said in his 2012/2013 report, issued in January 2014, that “As a result of the related OBIGGS and tank venting deficiencies, [F-35] flight operations are currently not permitted within 25 miles of known lightning conditions. Neither restriction is acceptable for combat or combat training.”)


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