The United States Navy recovered an F-35C from the South China Sea on Wednesday after it crashed during routine flight operations earlier this year.
According to a press release from the Commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, the fleet’s Task Force (CTF) 75 and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) “successfully retrieved the F-35C Lightning II aircraft.”
The aircraft was recovered from a depth of around 12,400 feet by a team from CTF 75 and the NAVSEA’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), which worked from the diving support construction vessel Picasso.
“The task force’s expertise in rapid, scalable command, control, and communications, agile logistics, organic security, and explosive ordnance disposal was the most flexible choice for the fleet commander to respond in a timely manner,” said CTF 75 Commodore, Capt. Gareth Healy, in a statement.
“Ultimately, this deliberate approach resulted in the correct capabilities conducting recovery operations within 37 days of the incident,” he added. “Given the unique challenges of this problem and the unique technical capabilities that NAVSEA delivered, this was an aggressive and achievable timeline.”
The wreckage was retrieved from the South China Sea using a CURV-21, “a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which attached specialized rigging and lift lines to the aircraft.”
“The ship’s crane lifting hook was then lowered to the seafloor and connected to the rigging, and then lifted the aircraft to the surface and hoisted it onboard Picasso,” the release stated.
The F-35C will be transported to a nearby military installation for the ongoing investigation. It will also be evaluated for possible transport to the U.S.
The office of the 7th Fleet Commander said that the recovery effort demonstrates the United States Navy’s “commitment to its assets,” as well as “a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
In January, footage was leaked showing what appeared to be the moments surrounding the F-35C stealth fighter crash that took place on a U.S. aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. Leaked photos also showed the crashed jet in the ocean.
Babak Taghvaee, a reporter for The Independent’s and Radio Free Europe’s Persian language news services tweeted, “Someone has now leaked video of the accident for F-35C Lightning II of #USNavy’s VFA-147 Argonauts a few days ago. Due to pilot’s mistake, the aircraft landed early on USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) Aircraft Carrier and slipped into sea with severed landing gears!”
The Navy later confirmed that the video and photos were indeed authentic, and were investigating sailors involved in leaking the video.