US Navy recovers crashed F-35C stealth jet from South China Sea

Operation to find advanced military aircraft successful amid rising tension between US and China

An F-35 stealth jet sits on the deck of the 'USS Carl Vinson'. Reuters

The US Navy has recovered a stealth fighter jet that sank in the South China Sea after crashing off an aircraft carrier while trying to land.

A major operation to find the F-35C Lightning II — one of the most advanced US military aircraft — was launched in an area of rising tensions between the US and China.

It was retrieved on Wednesday from a depth of 3,780 metres, the navy said on Thursday.

Seven sailors were injured in the January 24 “landing mishap” on the USS Carl Vinson. The pilot ejected to safety and was rescued by helicopter.

The aircraft was recovered from the sea using a remotely operated vehicle that attached lift lines from a ship's crane.

“The recovery effort shows the US Navy commitment to its assets, and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the navy said.

The South China Sea has become a centre of global tension, with China steadily cementing control of key islands and atolls.

Beijing has sought to assert control of almost the entire sea but its claims overlap with those of Taiwan and other South-East Asian countries.

The USS Carl Vinson and another US carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, and their strike groups were performing drills when the plane crashed.

The operation was carried out by the US Navy's 7th Fleet, which works with 35 maritime nations in the Indo-Pacific region. It is the navy's largest forward-deployed fleet with 50 to 70 ships and submarines, 150 aircraft and more than 27,000 sailors and marines.

Updated: March 04, 2022, 3:07 PM
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