Navy recovers crashed F-35C from depths of South China Sea

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An F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter following a crash on USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on January 24, 2022.

Navy salvage teams operating from a commercial salvage vessel recovered the F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter which suffered a ramp strike on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70 and crashed in the South China Sea, a U.S. 7th Fleet spokesperson confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.

The F-35C, assigned to the ‘Argonauts’ of VFA-147 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA), was pulled from the bottom of the South China Sea with Navy personnel aboard the offshore vessel DSCV picassowho left Okinawa on February 23, according to the service.

The Navy sent personnel from Task Force 75, Naval Sea Systems Command and NAVSEA’s Rescue and Diving Supervisor aboard picasso – a vessel designed for deep diving and rescue for offshore industries, according to owner Ultra Deep Solutions.

“The wreckage was recovered from a depth of approximately 12,400 feet by a team from CTF 75 and the NAVSEA Salvage and Diving Supervisor (SUPSALV) boarded the Dive Support Construction Vessel ( DSCV) picassoreads a statement from the US 7th Fleet.
“The aircraft was recovered using a CURV-21, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which attached specialized rigging and lifting lines to the aircraft. The ship’s crane lifting hook was then lowered to the seabed and attached to the rigging, then lifted the aircraft to the surface and hoisted it aboard. picasso.”

The recovery of the plane alleviates fears that China or Russia could seize the aircraft, either to replicate the technology on board or to discover ways to defeat the fighters.

While the Navy did not specify where the recovery operations took place, the Japan Coast Guard issued a notice to sailors in late January warning of rescue operations about 170 miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon. .

Notice to mariners

The recovery of the F-35C follows a similar operation in which the UK, Italy and the US last year staged a rescue operation of a British F-35B that went down crashed in the Mediterranean following a take-off from the aircraft carrier HMS. queen elizabeth (R08).

According to a video of the ramp strike that was leaked on social media, the F-35C was too low in its approach to the flight deck and struck the rear of the carrier, skidding on its belly and spinning at 180 degrees while descending angle. bridge vinson.

The hunter slid across the deck at around 95 miles per hour before falling off the edge. The accident, which occurred on January 24, injured seven sailors, including the pilot who was able to eject from the hunter before it hit the water.

The crew of vinson was able to quickly clear the flight during a combined exercise with USS fighters abraham lincoln (CVN-72). Some fighters were able to refuel on lincoln before returning to vinson the same day.

“One of the super rewarding…. feelings or emotions, results of the F-35 crash in particular, but also of… other incidents [is] how the ship’s crew and the air wing came together and provided the perfect response,” Capt. P. Scott Miller told USNI News during a recent boarding. vinson. “Our entire training course, where we carry out our assessments with all the training organizations at home, has prepared us perfectly.”

The cause of the accident is currently under investigation.

The following is the full statement from the US 7th Fleet.

The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) successfully recovered the F-35C Lightning II aircraft that crashed earlier this year in the South China Sea on March 2.

The F-35C Lightning II, assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, crashed while the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) was conducting routine flight operations in the South China Sea on January 24.

The wreckage was recovered from a depth of approximately 12,400 feet by a team from CTF 75 and NAVSEA’s Diving and Salvage Supervisor (SUPSALV) boarded the Diving Support Construction Vessel (DSCV ) Picasso.

“The task force’s expertise in rapid and scalable command, control and communications, agile logistics, organic security, and explosive ordnance disposal was the most flexible choice for the fleet commander to meet. in a timely manner,” said CTF 75 Commodore Capt. Gareth Healy. “Ultimately, this deliberate approach resulted in having the appropriate capabilities to conduct recovery operations within 37 days of the incident. Given the unique challenges of this issue and the unique technical capabilities provided by NAVSEA, it is It was an aggressive and achievable schedule.

The plane was recovered using a CURV-21, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which attached specialized rigging and lifting lines to the plane. The ship’s crane lifting hook was then lowered to the sea floor and connected to the rigging, then lifted the aircraft to the surface and hoisted it aboard Picasso.

The aircraft will be delivered to a nearby military installation to aid in the ongoing investigation and evaluated for potential transport to the United States.

The recovery effort shows the U.S. Navy’s commitment to its assets and a free and open Indo-Pacific.

CTF 75 is the 7th Fleet’s primary expeditionary task force and is responsible for the planning and execution of maritime security operations, explosive ordnance disposal, diving, engineering and construction, and underwater construction. It further provides direct support to diving and rescue operations and expeditionary intelligence throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Under the command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the 7th Fleet is the largest forward-deployed numbered fleet in the U.S. Navy, and regularly interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

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