The U.S. Navy announced on March 3 that it had recovered a stealthy F-35C Lightning II fighter jet that had crashed into the South China Sea while attempting to land on a Navy aircraft carrier.
A remote-operated vehicle attached lines to the plane and was lifted 12,400 feet to the ocean’s surface. The fighter jet was then placed aboard the deck of a civilian vessel called the “Picasso” that the Navy contracted to assist in the operation, according to the Navy’s Seventh Fleet in Japan.
The salvage task force commander, U.S. Navy Captain Gareth Healy, said in a statement that “this deliberate approach resulted in the correct capabilities conducting recovery operations within thirty-seven days of the incident.”
“This was an aggressive and achievable timeline given the unique challenges of this problem,” Healy continued.
According to the statement, the fighter jet will be taken to a nearby military installation and studied as part of the crash investigation before being transported back to the United States. The U.S. Navy has delivered aircraft needing significant repairs to a base in Yokosuka, Japan, during recent salvage operations in the region.
On January 24, the $94-million fighter jet was flying out of the Carl Vinson carrier in the South China Sea when it collided with the ship’s approximately 1,100-foot-long flight deck and skidded nearly the vessel’s entire length before plunging into the water. The pilot was ejected and pulled from the water before being flown to Manila for medical treatment. Three other injured sailors were transported for medical treatment due to the crash. Medical personnel on board the ship treated four more sailors who were injured.
According to the U.S. Naval Institute, the flight deck video of the fighter jet crash was later leaked online, prompting an investigation that resulted in four sailors being charged with releasing the footage. One of the videos was found on Instagram, and the other on Twitter.