Navy to rescue stealth F-35 that crashed while landing aircraft carrier in South China Sea

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The US Navy has begun drawing up plans to recover the F-35C fighter jet that crashed on Monday after hitting the deck of an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. The jet is the world’s most advanced stealth fighter and would have been an attractive target for China had it attempted to recover it from the depths of the Pacific Ocean.

“The U.S. Navy is arranging for recovery operations for the F-35C aircraft involved in the crash aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the South China Sea on Jan. 24,” said Brenda Way, gatekeeper. -say of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.

An earlier Navy statement said that as the F-35 attempted to land on the carrier on Monday, “it impacted the flight deck and then fell into the water during flight operations from routine”.

Seven sailors, including the pilot who was able to eject safely, were injured in Monday’s crash, according to the Navy.

Damage to the carrier’s deck was “superficial and all equipment for flight operations is operational,” allowing flight operations to resume, Seventh Fleet spokesman Lt. Mark Langford said.

The crash of one of the world’s most advanced fighter jets in international waters had fueled speculation that the US Navy could quickly launch a rescue operation to prevent other foreign powers, particularly China, from d try to do the same.

“The race is on now to get the right kind of salvage equipment, the deep-diving submersibles that actually pull wreckage from the ocean floor,” said retired aviator and contributor Steve Ganyard. ABC News.

Ganyard thinks China likely has a general idea of ​​where the jet entered South China Sea waters, making its advanced stealth technology an attractive target for China to launch its own rescue operation.

“The Chinese have it, the US Navy has it,” Ganyard said. “These two countries are going to want to get their hands on this wreck.”

It’s unclear how deep the waters where the F-35 fell in the Pacific are, but the Navy has considerable experience rescuing deep-sea wreckage. A 2019 salvage operation in the Philippine Sea recovered a C-2A Greyhound aircraft that was three miles under the ocean.

While Monday’s crash marked the Navy’s first F-35C accident at sea, it will not be its first rescue of an F-35 aircraft.

Late last year, the US Navy helped Britain’s Royal Navy recover an F-35B fighter jet from Mediterranean waters after it crashed taking off from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Monday’s crash occurred while the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group aircraft carrier was participating in a major naval exercise with the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group aircraft carrier, USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group, USS America Amphibious Ready Group and a Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. helicopter carriers.

The participation of so many U.S. Navy airborne and amphibious vessels operating together in the South China Sea highlights the capabilities of the U.S. Navy in a region where China continues to claim maritime territory.

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