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US F-35 fighter jet crashes while landing on carrier in South China Sea

An F-35C Lightning II prepares to land on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during operations in the South China Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Caden Richmond)
January 25, 2022

Seven U.S. Navy sailors were injured on Monday after a landing mishap aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) after an F-35 fighter jet experienced a landing mishap during operations in the South Cina Sea.

According to a Navy press release, an F-35C Lightning II, assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 was carrying out routine flight operations when the incident occurred. The pilot was able to safely eject from the aircraft and was later recovered by helicopter in stable condition.

Seven sailors aboard the ship were injured in the incident. Three required MEDEVAC to a medical treatment facility in Manila, Philippines and were in stable condition.

The four remaining sailors were treated by onboard medical personnel. Three of the four have since been released.

The cause of the landing mishap is unclear and the incident is now under investigation.

The incident comes as the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) carrier strike group are conducting operations in the South China Sea. According to a U.S. 7th Fleet press release, the two carrier strike groups are training for enhanced maritime communication operations, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea, cross-deck flight operations and maritime interdiction operations.

On Saturday and Sunday, elements of the two U.S. carrier strike groups held joint naval drills with elements of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force in the neighboring Philippine Sea.

Both the South China Sea and the Philippine Sea border the island of Taiwan. The island governs itself as an independent nation, but China considers Taiwan a part of its territory.

In response to the U.S. and Japanese naval drills near Taiwan, China deployed 39 military aircraft around the island on Sunday. The military flight included 34 J-10 and J-16 fighter jets, a nuclear-capable H-6 bomber, two Y-9 electronic warfare aircraft and two Y-8 electronic intelligence-gathering aircraft.

China conducts near-daily military flight operations around Taiwan, but this particular deployment of military aircraft was the largest so far this year. China tends to deploy particularly large military flights around Taiwan in response to spikes in tensions between the U.S., China and Taiwan or in response to U.S. military activities nearby.

The large-scale deployment of Chinese military aircraft prompted Taiwan to activate its missile defense systems, issue radio warnings and dispatch its own aircraft to intercept and drive off the Chinese aircraft.

Monday’s F-35 crash incident comes about two months after an F-35B experienced an engine failure while taking off from the British Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth.