A US passenger jet has been forced to divert and land after it reported a problem with its navigation equipment, with photos revealing the horrifying scale of the damage.

The Delta Airlines A319 was carrying 43 passengers between Palm Beach, Florida, and New York's LaGuardia airport on Monday night (US time) when the navigation issue forced it to land a JFK airport instead.

When the plane landed, the scale of the damage became clear with photos showing a massive indentation on the plane's nose cone.

Damage from intense hail was initially suspected as the cause of the damage.

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Delta later announced that the damage was caused when the plane hit a bird.

"Delta flight 1076 operating from West Palm Beach to New York-LaGuardia diverted to New York-JFK after encountering a bird," Delta said in a statement.

"The flight landed safely and without incident, and maintenance is evaluating the aircraft."