New Swiss F-35 Lightning II fighter jets can't go near thunderstorms

New Swiss F-35 Lightning II fighter jets can't go near thunderstorms

When you think about the pilots of the world’s greatest fighter jets, be it the Eurofighter Typhoon or the more archaic Supermarine Spitfire or P-51 Mustang, you don’t often imagine them ducking for shelter or perhaps an umbrella whenever the weather gets nasty. However, the Swiss media has now reported that the 36 brand new F-35 fighter jets that are set to join the Air Force from 2027 can’t fly to places where the weather is poor.

Deadliest fighter jet in the world foiled by lightning

According to a report released by the Tages-Anzeiger, what manufacturer Lockheed Martin calls the “deadliest fighter jet in the world” turns into an expensive ground-based ornament whenever there is a thunderstorm overhead. The American-made F-35A - ironically called the “Lightning II” - is currently unable to fly within 40 kilometres of a thunderstorm for safety reasons - the newspaper explained that if struck by lightning, the jet risks bursting into flames.

The issue was originally spotted three years ago when the Swiss military ordered the planes but is yet to be solved by the manufacturer. According to the Tages-Anzeiger, the fault lies with a special gas pump that prevents the fuel tank on the plane from exploding when impacted by lightning. Lockheed Martin said that a redesign is in the works, but did not commit to a timetable.

F-35 jets cost Switzerland 6 billion francs

After a number of referendums on the topic, the Swiss government finally ordered 36 F-35 aircraft from Lockheed Martin in 2020 in a bid to replace the ageing F-18 jets currently in service. The project cost 6 billion francs or 171 million francs per plane. They are expected to be delivered to Swiss airports and airforce bases - regardless of whether the fault is fixed or not - from 2027.

Swiss newspaper Blick pointed out that the dodgy pump adds to a list of previous faults with the plane that have included air pressure issues in the cockpit, false alarms, engine issues, manufacturing defects and a surprisingly inaccurate main cannon. If the pump issue is not fixed by the time planes land in Switzerland, we can only hope that the country’s enemies choose a cloudless day to invade.

Thumb image credit: Richard Whitcombe /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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Jascha Kegelban 09:30 | 14 September 2023

6 billions is a small price to pay for air superiority over Aargau. Good use of public funds.