A pilot was injured in a crash that destroyed a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II near Albuquerque, New Mexico on 28 May. 

Images of a sparsely vegetated hillside engulfed in flames and a dark plume of smoke rising from wreckage circulated on social media following the accident, which occurred around 14:00 local time. 

A spokesman for Albuquerque Fire Rescue confirmed the accident in a social media post, adding that first responders arrived on the scene and “confirmed a downed aircraft and started making a search for the pilot and started fire-suppression efforts”. 

The pilot survived the crash and was taken to a hospital with “serious injuries”, according to the spokesman. “Two other civilians were assessed on scene, and neither of those resulted in transport” to a hospital, he adds. 

F-35 crash New Mexico

Source: X/Twitter 

An F-35B crashed into a hillside in New Mexico on 28 May, leaving one pilot seriously injured 

Manufacturer Lockheed Martin confirms the incident aircraft was a short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B model. The type is operated by the US Navy, UK Royal Navy and the Italian navy, according to Cirium data. Japan and Singapore have also signed on to operate the STOVL F-35 variant.

The advanced stealth fighter was en route from Fort Worth, Texas to Edwards AFB in Southern California when it crashed near Albuquerque International Sunport, which is also the site of Kirtland AFB. 

Lockheed, which is the prime contractor on the global F-35 programme and completes final aircraft assembly in Fort Worth, says that the fighter crashed after stopping to refuel at Kirtland AFB. 

”The pilot safely ejected,” the company says. ”Safety is our priority, and we will follow appropriate investigation protocol.” 

The airframer specifies that aircraft was “US government owned and operated” and being flown by a US military pilot, rather than a Lockheed employee.

In December 2022, a Lockheed-owned F-35B fighter crashed during an attempted vertical landing in Fort Worth, Texas. The pilot in that instance was a US military officer conducting an evaluation flight of a recently assembled F-35.

Additional reporting by Ryan Finnerty

This story has been edited to include Lockheed Martin’s statement on the accident.