The Air Force is investigating what caused a mechanical problem aboard an F-35A fighter in flight earlier this month, a spokesperson confirmed to Air Force Times.
The pilot opted to return to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, while they tried to figure out what was causing the issue, 56th Fighter Wing spokesperson Sean Clements said Wednesday.
The pilot radioed a code 7700, which flags an airborne emergency to air traffic control, around 1:10 p.m. local time on June 15, according to the flight tracking site FlightRadar24. The site showed the jet circling counterclockwise over northwest Phoenix as it prepared to land at Luke.
“When the malfunction didn’t remedy itself, the pilot returned the aircraft safely to the ground where the issue can be investigated more in-depth,” Clements said.
It’s unclear what the specific nature of the problem was, how it affected the aircraft or what caused it. The Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office did not immediately respond to a request for more further details.
The jet has flown several times since then, according to FlightRadar24, including an appearance Thursday at Fort Worth, Texas, where F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin builds the airframe.
The 56th Fighter Wing trains more than 100 F-35 pilots each year and graduates three-quarters of the world’s Joint Strike Fighter pilots, according to its website. The Air Force currently owns more than 400 F-35As and plans to purchase over 1,700 in total.
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.