Navy recovers F-35 that fell into South China Sea after crash

U.S. 7th Fleet

The Navy has recovered an F-35C fighter jet that fell into the South China Sea in January after it crashed on the USS Carl Vinson. 

A team from U.S. 7th Fleet’s Task Force 75 and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) “successfully retrieved the F-35C Lightning II aircraft” on Wednesday from a depth of about 12,400 feet, the service said in a statement.  

The Navy recovered the fighter jet 37 days after it crashed while conducting routine flight operations in the South China Sea on Jan. 24. 

“Given the unique challenges of this problem and the unique technical capabilities that NAVSEA delivered, this was an aggressive and achievable timeline,” CTF 75 Commodore Capt. Gareth Healy said in the statement. 

The service recovered the wrecked F-35 using the diving support construction vessel Picasso. To reach it, a remotely operated vehicle attached specialized rigging and lift lines to the aircraft. The ship’s crane lifting hook was then lowered to the seafloor and connected to the rigging, allowing it to lift the aircraft to the surface and hoist it onboard the Picasso. 

The aircraft will now be delivered to an unnamed, nearby military installation “to aid in the ongoing investigation and evaluated for potential transport to the United States,” according to the statement.   

The Navy in January acknowledged that the F-35 had a “landing mishap” on deck, and a one-minute clip of the incident was later leaked online.  

The service previously said that the pilot, who was able to eject from the plane before it crashed, was one of seven sailors injured as a result of the mishap. 

Tags F-35s South China Sea U.S. 7th Fleet

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