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)
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(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.”)