Our Entire Fleet of F-35s Just Got Grounded Due to Faulty Ejection Seats

Wes O'Donnell
3 min readAug 8, 2022
A 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief prepares an F-35A for take off Aug. 2, 2016, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stormy Archer) Public Domain.

If there’s one plane that the media loves to hate, it’s the F-35 Lightning II.

Maybe it’s because the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program remains the DOD’s most expensive weapon system program to date, with a program price tag of $1.7 trillion.

What the media won’t tell you is that cost includes the cost of operations and sustainment of the jet spread out over 66 years!

But still, sometimes the criticisms are valid…

Like when the U.S. government’s top 5th generation fighter gets grounded because of an ejector seat malfunction.

And we’re not just talking about one or two fighters. We’re talking about ALL the F-35s, including the F-35s belonging to the Navy and Marines also, not to mention some British, German, and Israeli F-35s.

When I was a maintainer in the U.S. Air Force, this is what we would call NMC or non-mission capable.

But wait, there’s more!

The Air Force also grounded 203 T-38 Talon trainers and 76 T-6 Texan II aircraft! This represents about 40% of the T-38 fleet and 15% of the T-6 fleet.

The T-38 is a supersonic jet used to train pilots to fly fighter and bomber aircraft, and the T-6 is the service’s turboprop plane used to teach basic flight skills.

Then, the Navy discovered defects in the ejection seats of an undisclosed number of F/A-18B/C/D Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E/A-18G Growlers, and T-45 Goshawk, and F-5 Tiger II training aircraft.

Congratulations! Some Lockheed Martin sub-contractor in the U.K. who makes parts for ejection seats has single-handedly done what Russian and Chinese military planners dream of: Simultaneously ground NATO’s entire modern fighter arsenal.

Granted, the Department of Defense made the right decision to ground aircraft, at least until inspections can be performed and the planes returned to service.

After all, airmen’s lives are worth more than equipment.

As a pilot’s last line of defense during an emergency, the jet’s ejection seat system is critical — it’s there to give the airmen confidence to fly, fight, and…

Wes O'Donnell

Army & Air Force Veteran | Global Security Wonk for War is Boring, GEN, OneZero, Soldier of Fortune | Law Student | TEDx Speaker | Founder of Warrior Lodge