A Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jet belonging to South Korea’s Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) was forced to perform a belly landing after an unspecified avionics issue prevented the aircraft from extending its landing gear. 

According to South Korean media, the pilot was uninjured and walked away from the landing, while the aircraft sustained minimal damage. 

The incident occurred at 12:51 pm KST (03:51 GMT) on January 4, 2021 at Seosan Air Base (HMY), south of Seoul. 

Before the landing, firefighting services covered the air base’s runway with special protective foam, shielding the aircraft from sustaining significant damage. 

South Korean Yonhap News Agency reports that ROKAF cited an unspecified avionics issue as the cause of the incident, noting that it had prevented the landing gear from being deployed. No further information has been revealed. 

The air force has temporarily suspended its F-35s flights and opened an investigation into the incident. 

The event marks the first known F-35 belly landing. The nearest thing to such an incident was in June 2020 when landing gear collapsed as an USAF F-35 commenced landing at Hill Air Force Base.  

As of January 2022, more than 750 F-35s have been delivered to air forces across the world.  

ROKAF has 16 F-35A Lightning II fighter jets in its inventory, with a further 20 on order.