COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — An experimental Air Force effort to use the F-35 to prevent avalanches at Pike’s Peak has ended in disaster, after an avalanche severely damaged the Air Force Academy and killed hundreds of cadets.
The State of Colorado routinely causes small avalanches to avoid larger ones using World War II howitzers, but the Air Force saw an opportunity to show the versatility of its newest aircraft and offered to step in.
"Despite the unfortunate outcome, we have gained terrific data from what was graded a 90 percent success in this test operation," a Northrop Grumman spokesman said in a written statement.
Many Academy buildings were destroyed, including the world famous Chapel, though it was unclear if the low altitude sonic boom or the avalanche brought the Chapel down. Most of the cadets killed were at a satanic ritual in the basement of the chapel when the building collapsed.
According to NORAD spokesman Mike Kucharek, the accident occurred because of a navigational error.
“The stupendous F-35 visited the Air Force Academy to familiarize the cadets with the future of the service prior to its mission,” Kucharek said. “Upon departure, its super-advanced navigational computers required a tiny, inconsequential reboot due to a known but totally unimportant software glitch. Unfortunately, the reboot caused a small spatial error in the system’s amazing 3-D navigation system.”
Kucharek says the pre-programmed attack profile prematurely engaged supersonic speed “which, thanks to the wonderful Pratt & Whitney F135 Engines™, can be achieved without afterburner, using less fuel and reducing pollution,” directly over the US Air Force Academy.
“It also fired six JDAMs [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] at the east face of the Rampart Range, rather than Pike's Peak, a completely understandable mistake, given that pretty much all mountains look the same,” unleashing a massive avalanche of snow and rocks directly down on the Academy, Kucharek said, referring to the mountains next to the Academy.
Kucharek noted that the software glitch would be fixed with Block IX F-35s, scheduled for implementation sometime in 2023.
“Despite the minor hiccup, this incident nevertheless validates and proves the value of this incredible, and might I add multirole, aircraft," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.
“I mean, come on? A single F-35 destroyed hundreds of acres and killed hundreds of people in just seconds,” Welsh said. “It would have taken a whole A-10 squadron hours to do that, and if the cadets had MANPADs [portable surface-to-air missiles] it would have been game over for the Warthogs.”
Although rescue and recovery operations were still underway, spokesmen have said the Academy will permanently close. The service plans to quickly make up the personnel shortage by reassigning JAG staff. A person familiar with the situation said, “Without the Academy, [the JAGs] have a lot less to do.”