Freak Accident Greets F-22 Raptor In Japan; Newly Deployed Stealth Jet Suffers Nose Gear Malfunction: Media

Images circulating online depict a US Air Force F-22 Raptor grounded on its nose at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, following a nose gear malfunction on April 11, 2024. 

Reports indicate that the incident occurred around 10:30 AM local time, as the aircraft experienced an emergency on the runway, with photos showing the stealth aircraft being towed with its nose gear collapsed.

While awaiting official confirmation, it appears that the nose gear collapse occurred as the aircraft was being towed off the runway with its engines powered down. 

The Okinawa Defense Bureau has stated that the jet encountered a landing gear issue during the towing process. 

In a photo circulating online, emergency response teams, including fire engines and other vehicles, are visible at the scene, though thankfully, there was no fire. Personnel were observed inspecting the aircraft, and the preparations for a thorough investigation are currently underway. 

The setback is significant for the US military, as this particular F-22 was deployed in Japan to reinforce Tokyo’s defense capabilities. The duration required for repairs remains uncertain and is pending further assessment.

This F-22 likely belonged to one of the two F-22 Raptor squadrons recently dispatched to Okinawa by the US Air Force, replacing retired F-15 Eagles. 

The deployment of the 199th and 99th Fighter Squadrons to Kadena Air Base commenced on March 28 as part of a rotational presence to augment US air power in the region. 

This development unfolds against the backdrop of escalating tensions in the region, particularly with China’s accelerated production of J-20 fighter jets and assertive regional maneuvers. 

Recent reports suggest that China’s J-20 production has surged to approximately 100 jets annually, more than doubling its output from the previous year.

Nonetheless, the potential impact on the operational capabilities of the US military in Japan remains unclear following the incident. Additionally, the extent of damage sustained by the aircraft is not yet evident.

Landing Gear Mishaps: A Look Back at Past Incidents

Nose gear issues seem to persist within the F-22 aircraft fleet, with recent incidents adding to a concerning trend of landing gear mishaps.

In March 2022, an F-22 Raptor stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, made headlines when an image surfaced online showing the aircraft’s nose cone buried in the ground following an apparent landing gear mishap. The incident occurred during the landing.

This event echoes a similar occurrence a year earlier, in March 2021, when an F-22 Raptor assigned to the 325th Fighter Wing experienced a ground mishap at Eglin AFB. Despite safely landing after an in-flight emergency, the aircraft suffered a nose gear collapse on the runway.

However, nose gear troubles are not exclusive to the F-22 fleet. The F-35 Lightning II aircraft has also faced its share of landing gear challenges. 

An Air National Guard F-16 is damaged after its landing gear collapsed at a Sioux Falls airport. (via Twitter)

On January 26, 2024, a US Marine Corps F-35C Lightning II, assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 311 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, suffered a nose landing gear collapse while parked shortly after a training mission at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

Similarly, on December 1, 2022, an F-35B Lightning II belonging to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 ‘Green Knights’ encountered an incident on the ground at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.

After making a precautionary landing due to possible electrical problems, the aircraft suffered a nose wheel break while being towed, leaving the 5th generation aircraft with its nose on the taxiway.

These incidents bear a striking resemblance to past events. In 2018, a USAF F-35A Lightning II, assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron, experienced an in-flight emergency and safely returned to base. However, upon parking, the front nose gear collapsed.

In June 2020, an F-35A Lightning II experienced a landing gear failure upon landing at Hill Air Force Base following a standard training flight. The pilot safely exited the aircraft.

F-22 at Kadena

Besides that, in September 2021, a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber encountered a landing gear collapse due to weakened springs, causing it to skid off the runway upon touchdown at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. 

An investigation by the Air Force determined that the two crucial springs in the bomber’s left main landing gear did not exert sufficient pressure to maintain it in the locked position.

Even combat-proven and widely acclaimed aircraft like the F-16s are not immune to landing gear issues. On December 2, 2019, an F-16CM Block 40, bearing the tail number 90-0714, took off as part of a four-ship formation for a local continuation training sortie near Kunsan. Following the routine flight, the aircraft returned to base.

However, the right main landing gear collapsed upon landing, causing the pilot to lose control of the aircraft. Unable to regain control, the pilot opted to eject. Nevertheless, the aircraft continued down the infield and ultimately suffered destruction.