US Navy Sets Out to Recover Its F35C Crashed Into the South China Sea

Any foreign power would consider the lost F-35C to be a valuable intelligence asset.
Ameya Paleja
An F-35C Lightning II in a high G maneuverrancho_runner/iStock

The U.S. Navy is currently working on recovering its F-35 Lightning II aircraft, assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 after it crashed in the South China Sea while attempting to land on USS Carl Vinson. Apart from the pilot who ejected safely, seven sailors were injured in the mishap, and are now stable, the Navy said in its press release

Although details about the incident are scanty, the incident happened during routine operations in the South China Sea on Jan 24, the Navy said. According to Al Jazeera's report, USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln are currently conducting exercises in the South China Sea with over 14,000 sailors and marines. 

When initial reports of the incident had surfaced, the U.S. Seventh Fleet, headquartered in Japan, had refused to comment, The Drive reported. The office, however, confirmed that the F-35C had fallen off the deck due to an accident during its landing. The impact on the deck was superficial and equipment for flight operations hadn't suffered any damage, so flight operations had resumed on the aircraft carrier. 

Déjà vu

The incident might seem like a deja vu after the British aircraft carrier reported an accident with its F-35B aircraft in November last year. Back then, the U.S. Navy rushed to the Royal Navy's rescue in ensuring that the aircraft did not fall into wrong hands. The threat of this happening is now grave since China claims the entire region of the South China sea. 

Although the U.S. Navy has the necessary equipment and expertise to recover the aircraft that is likely to be more or less intact, it is a long-drawn process. The British F-35 was recovered almost a month later, The Drive had then reported and its public image was released only recently.  

Although the U.S. Navy has divulged details on how it plans to recover the aircraft, to its credit it has the enviable record of recovering an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from a record depth of 19.075 feet off the coast of Okinawa, Japan in 2020, The Drive reported. 

Earlier this month, a South Korean F-35A also made an emergency landing during training, Al Jazeera reported. 

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