HomeNewsNavy Races To Salvage F-35 That Crashed on Carrier in South China Sea

Navy Races To Salvage F-35 That Crashed on Carrier in South China Sea

by Matthew Memrick
(Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dusty Howell/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

The U.S. Navy is racing to discover where a crashed F-35 aircraft is in the South China Sea and China is interested in it, too.

On Monday, officials said an F-35C fighter jet hit the deck of the USS Carl Vinson and ended up in the ocean. According to ABC News, China could see the jet’s advanced stealth fighting technology as valuable. American officials are working to recover the plane from the Pacific Ocean as soon as possible in light of that threat.

Brenda Way, a Navy Pacific Fleet spokesperson, said the Navy is making recovery operations arrangements for the wrecked plane.  

Monday’s Plane Crash Not Fatal

Officials said the plane “impacted the flight deck and subsequently fell to the water during routine flight operations.”

Equally important, six sailors plus the pilot suffered injuries in the accident.

Lt. Mark Langford, a Seventh Fleet spokesman, added that the deck’s damage was superficial, and all equipment was “operational.”

It’s important to realize this airplane is one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world.

There’s no shortage of talk about other foreign powers attempting to salvage the plane.  

“The race is on now to get the appropriate kind of recovery gear, the deep diving submersibles that actually pull the wreckage up off the bottom of the ocean,” Steve Ganyard said. Ganyard is a retired Marine aviator and ABC News contributor.

China May Know The Plane’s Location

Consequently, the analyst said China has a good idea of where the $100 million aircraft is located in the South China Sea.

However, its depth in the ocean water is unknown. By that fact, the U.S. Navy won’t stop looking for it.

With this purpose in mind, some think that China will attempt to claim aircraft ownership based on salvage rights. 

“Salvaging the plane with commercial and coast guard assets will enable Beijing to claim it is recovering a potential environmental hazard or foreign military equipment from its territorial waters,” Carl Schuster told CNN.

Schuster is a former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii.

U.S. Navy Has Salvage Experience

A 2019 salvage operation in the Philippine Sea pulled up a C-2A Greyhound aircraft three miles under the ocean water.

In November, the U.S. Navy helped the British Royal Navy recover an F-35B fighter in the Mediterranean. The plane wrecked after takeoff from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The region is already fraught with conflict. Evidently, China makes many territorial claims in the area, and the United States already operates many ships in the South China Sea. The most compelling evidence of the Asian country’s work comes from its fortification of many reefs and islands. According to CNN, China claims almost 1.3 million square miles of the waterway. 

Reportedly, it will take American salvage vessels 10 to 15 days to get to the site with a 120-day time for recovery. Some floated one possible idea of torpedoing the plane. Unfortunately, analysts said that was not possible.