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‘Human factors' caused loss of UK F-35B, MoD finds

A file photo of an F-35B launching from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth . On 17 November 2021 aircraft ZM152 crashed because of a loss of power caused by a protective engine blank not being removed before take-off. (Crown Copyright)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has determined that human factors most likely caused the loss of a Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning combat aircraft in November 2021.

The interim report into the loss of the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B from HMS Queen Elizabeth states that, “while the investigation is ongoing, the service inquiry panel is now confident that the cause was not related to an aircraft technical issue but was most likely caused by human, organisational, and procedural factors”.

Aircraft ZM152 from the Royal Air Force's (RAF's) 617 Squadron was lost during operations from Queen Elizabeth in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. As subsequently leaked CCTV footage showed, the aircraft appeared to fall off the end of the ship's launch ramp after seemingly losing power to its single Pratt & Whitney F135 engine. The pilot ejected and was recovered shortly after.

The interim report published on 8 September found that one of the two protective air intake covers, known as blanks, that had been fitted to the aircraft for the ship's transit through the Suez Canal the day before the incident had not been removed ahead of the commencement of flight operations.

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