Airmen Struck by Lightning While Servicing F-35

An F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter taxis across the 33rd Fighter Wing flightline at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14, 2011. (U.S. Air Force/Samuel King Jr.)
An F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter taxis across the 33rd Fighter Wing flightline at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 14, 2011. (U.S. Air Force/Samuel King Jr.)

Two airmen were indirectly struck by lightning while servicing an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Wednesday evening on the Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, flight line, the Air Force said Thursday.

The airmen, assigned to the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, were in the process of clearing the flight line when "a nearby indirect lightning strike occurred at approximately 8:20 p.m.," said Maj. Ashley Conner, 53rd Wing spokeswoman.

"One airman was closing an F-35 canopy, and the other airman was winding up a grounding wire," Conner said in an email.

The airmen were clearing the area in an attempt to get ahead of lightning, she explained.

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"Flight line clearing procedures are conducted when lightning is observed or lighting warnings are issued," she added.

They were taken to the Eglin emergency room for observation, then released without injuries, Conner said.

There was no damage to aircraft or equipment, she added.

The Hill airmen were at Eglin to participate in Exercise Combat Hammer, hosted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron. The exercise, held four times a year at either Eglin or Hill, tests precision-guided, air-to-ground weapons for their "reliability, maintainability, suitability and accuracy," officials said.

The 86th belongs to the 53rd Wing, which is in charge of all operational testing and evaluation of new equipment, including electronic warfare, weapons, avionics, chemical defense, and reconnaissance, and aircrew training for the Air Force, according to the service.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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