South China Sea: US Navy tries to recover F-35C fighter jet from ocean after 7 hurt in 'landing mishap'

·3 min read

The US Navy is working to recover a F-35C fighter jet after it fell into the South China Sea following a "landing mishap" on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on Monday, the US 7th Fleet has revealed.

Seven sailors, including the pilot who ejected from the F-35C and was recovered from the water by helicopter, were hurt in the crash which occurred during a landing on the carrier.

"I can confirm the aircraft impacted the flight deck during landing and subsequently fell to the water," said Lieutenant Nicholas Lingo, spokesperson for the US 7th Fleet.

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"The US Navy is making recovery operations arrangements for the F-35C aircraft."

A statement by the 7th Fleet said the incident happened during routine flight operations and damage to the flight deck was "superficial and all equipment for flight operations is operational".

"Carrier Air Wing 2 and USS Carl Vinson have resumed routine flight operations in the South China Sea."

It said all the sailors were in a stable condition. The pilot and two sailors were sent to a medical treatment facility in Manila and four others were treated by on-board medical personnel.

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Collin Koh, a research fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said the US would salvage the jet as soon as possible.

"If the Americans decided to abandon the plane on the seabed and completely ignore it, then it'll become open invitation to others to come and retrieve it, so long they have the capability," he said.

"I don't think the Americans wish for the tech or associated intelligence to fall into the hands of US adversaries, not least China.

"It's too much an intelligence bonanza to concede to a strategic peer competitor like China. Definitely not when the Americans are already so wary of how much the PLA is closing the capability gap in recent years".

The Pentagon said two US Navy carrier strike groups led by the Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln began operations in the South China Sea on Sunday.

The carriers entered the disputed sea for training as Taiwan reported new Chinese air force sorties at the top of the waterway.

The ships and aircraft of the two carrier strike groups, with over 14,000 sailors and marines, will conduct coordinated surface and air operations to show the US Indo-Pacific Command Joint Force's ability to deliver a "powerful maritime force".

Data from US Naval Safety Centre revealed that USS Carl Vinson had four "class A mishaps" - an incident which causes more than US $2 million damage to the aircraft, the aircraft is destroyed or its pilot or crew is killed or permanently, totally disabled - in the last six weeks of 2021.

No sailors were reported injured for those incidents.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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