September 29, 2020 (by Asif Shamim) - A USMC KC-130J #166765 and F-35B from VMFA-121 collided during a refueling exercise around 16:00hrs local time over Southern California. The F-35 crashed near Naval Air Facility El Centro and the KC-130 made a forced landing in a farm field near the airport in Thermal. All the aircrew survived.
USMC KC-130J #166765 from VMGR-352 is seen after it made an emergency landing after colliding with an F-35B fighter jet during a refueling operation over the Southern California desert near Thermal on September 29, 2020. [Photo from KESQ-TV via AP]
The pilot of the F-35B safely ejected from the plane and currently is being treated for any injuries, Marine Corp officials said in a press release.
The KC-130J made an emergency landing "in the vicinity of Thermal Airport, California and all crew members have been reported safe," officals said.
Photos from the crash site show the Hercules aircraft had lost both propellors on the starboard wing and fuel was seen leaking out of its wing.
"The KC-130J and F-35B were taking part in Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course 1-21,” officials said. “WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, which emphasizes operational integration of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force.
The official cause of the crash remains under investigation.