F-35C crash leaves US fighter jet sunk in hostile South China Sea | South China Sea
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US Navy rushes to rescue F-35C fighter jet from bottom of South China Sea after it crashes into aircraft carrier and plunges overboard – taking highly classified technology with it which would be a coup if China got it first.
The F-35C crashed into the deck of the USS Carl Vinson during routine operations Monday, the Navy said, injuring six sailors and the pilot, who ejected from the plane before he does not fall into the sea.
America’s most advanced fighter, a stealth aircraft costing more than $100 million, is packed with highly classified technology and, if found, would be a boon to China, which claims nearly all of the South China Sea as its own territory. The Vinson was on patrol to challenge this territorial claim and defend international freedom of navigation.
The F-35C is a version of the aircraft specifically designed to operate from aircraft carriers. Marine experts have said it could take more than 10 days for a US rescue vessel to reach the crash site, which could give Chinese submarines the chance to find it first.
“We certainly realize the value of an F-35 in every way,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. “And as we continue to attempt to recover the aircraft, we’re obviously going to do so with safety first in mind, but clearly our own national security interests. And I think I’m going to leave it at that.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the Chinese government had no ambition to find the crashed plane. “I noted relevant reports. This is not the first time the United States has had an accident in the South China Sea,” he said.
“We have no interest in their planes. We urge the country concerned to do things that promote regional peace and stability, rather than flexing muscle in the region.
In 2001, a badly damaged American EP-3 surveillance plane made a daredevil emergency landing on the Chinese island of Hainan after colliding with a pursuing Chinese fighter jet. The fighter crashed and its pilot was killed.
The 24 crew members of the EP-3, who had been lucky enough to survive the collision, were arrested and questioned by Chinese authorities before their release 10 days later. Meanwhile, the Chinese military stripped and examined the EP-3’s highly classified intelligence equipment and material for several months, ultimately returning the aircraft to pieces.
This is the third time an F-35 has crashed at sea and had to be recovered. In November, a British F-35B, the short take-off and vertical landing version, crashed due to loss of power on takeoff from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean. The pilot ejected and the aircraft was recovered from the seabed a few weeks later.
In April 2019, a Japanese F-35A, the conventional take-off and landing version, crashed at over 1,000 km/h in the Pacific, leaving the pilot dead and only wreckage to be recovered.
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