Photo and Video of F-35C Crash Landing in South China Sea Confirmed by Navy

Photo and Video of F-35C Crash Landing in South China Sea Confirmed by Navy

The Navy has confirmed the authenticity of a photo and video making the rounds on social media of the crash landing of a $100 million F-35C stealth fighter on the USS Carl Vinson last Monday that resulted in the pilot ejecting and the plane going into the sea, with seven sailors reported injured. The pilot was safely recovered, the plane was not.

Four days after the crash the Navy tweeted a photo of the Carl Vinson performing flight operations.

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The Navy confirmed the authenticity of the photo and video to several outlets, including (excerpt):

“The ship has assessed that the video and photo covered in the media yesterday were taken onboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) during the crash,” Cmdr. Hayley Sims, a spokeswoman for the Navy’s 7th Fleet, told in an email.

The incident left seven sailors injured, while the pilot safely ejected and was later recovered. The Navy has said it is “making recovery operations arrangements” for the aircraft.

…The episode marks the fifth major incident aboard the Carl Vinson in two months while the ship has been deployed in the South China Sea.

According to the Navy, the pilot was rescued by a U.S. military helicopter and is in stable condition. Of the seven injured sailors, three required medevac to a medical treatment facility in Manila, Philippines, and four were treated aboard the aircraft carrier. Sims said that all are now in stable condition.

CNN reported the Navy may have to compete with China to salvage the lost aircraft (excerpt):

The Navy is giving scant details on its recovery plans for the F-35C, the first of which only became operational in 2019.

“The US Navy is making recovery operations arrangements for the F-35C aircraft involved in the mishap aboard USS Carl Vinson” is all a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet, Lt. Nicholas Lingo, would tell CNN on Wednesday.

Though the Navy has not revealed where in the South China Sea the crash occurred, Beijing claims almost all of the 1.3 million square mile (3.3 million square kilometer) waterway as its territory and has bolstered its claims by building up and militarizing reefs and islands there.

Chinese naval and coast guard vessels maintain a constant presence in South China Sea waters.

…The US disputes those Chinese territorial claims and uses deployments like the one the Vinson was on to push its case for a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

“China will try to locate and survey it thoroughly using submarines and one of its deep diving submersibles,” said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii.

Schuster, a former US Navy captain, said it’s possible China could make a claim for the salvage rights based on its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

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