F-35 technology closely guarded as crash investigation continues

Oct 21, 2022, 8:35 PM | Updated: Nov 7, 2022, 4:09 pm

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — As investigators work to find the cause behind an F-35 crash earlier this week, airmen are also trying to protect some important technology.

While many of our U.S. allies have the F-35, some of our enemies would still like to know what’s in there. China has even been accused of stealing plans from the F-35 to put into their 5th generation fighter. It’s why the U.S. remains careful about how much is shared about the stealth fighter.

The F-35 gets a lot of attention, not only for what it can do, but for how much it has cost taxpayers to develop — tens of billions over the years for a fighter that, in early stages, costed around $80 million per plane for the Air Force variant.

“If we were truly demonstrating our capabilities, you would never hear us or see us,” said Maj. Jay “Fast” Doerfler, an F-35 pilot.

The fighter’s combination of speed and stealth allow it to dominate on the battlefield, helping give older jets a more accurate idea of what to expect before joining the fight.

F-35 crashes at Hill Air Force Base, pilot hospitalized after ejection

“The jet can find a bad guy out there with his radar, and in my visor, I get an arrow pointing to where he is and know I can look and I can find him very easy,” Doerfler said.

And pilots say the helmet, in many ways, offers the biggest leap for them, even allowing them to look straight through the jet, getting a full 360-degree view.

“To be able to switch from video on, video off, night vision camera on or off, with all the symbology directly in front of you, to be able to look anywhere, it’s that information just that much faster and that much better at your fingertips. It makes us just that much more lethal,” said Maj. Kristin “Beo” Wolfe with the 388th Fighter Wing.

All just a sampling of why this technology is so closely guarded, why the crash site will remain secured and out of view until every piece is collected.

Neighborhood witnesses rush to help F-35 pilot after crash

Even in covering the F-35, we as media are asked to keep certain components of the fighter off-camera.

“If we do not have the F-35, we will be irrelevant in today’s combat capabilities,” said Capt. “Psycho” Habluetzel with the 388th Fighter Wing.

It’s about advantages we want to keep on the battlefield, protecting that massive investment, allowing our airmen to better keep us and themselves safe.

Airmen are also keeping the crash site under close watch to keep everything as close as possible as it was after the crash for the investigation.

They won’t be able to collect all pieces of the wreckage until after investigators are done there.

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F-35 technology closely guarded as crash investigation continues