Update: The Navy is scrambling to retrieve an F35 fighter jet that ended up at the bottom of the South China Sea after crash-landing on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier Monday. It's not clear exactly where the crash happened, but CNN describes the sea as "some of the most contested waters on the planet." China claims almost the entire sea and analysts believe the country's navy will closely monitor the recovery operation—or possibly even try to recover the F35C itself. Lt. Nicholas Lingo, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet, said the Navy is "making recovery operations arrangements" but did not disclose further details. Our story from Tuesday follows:
A US Navy F35C Lightning II combat jet conducting exercises in the South China Sea crashed while trying to land on the deck of an American aircraft carrier, injuring seven sailors, the military said Tuesday. The pilot was able to eject before the aircraft slammed into the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Monday and then fell into the water. The pilot was safely recovered by a helicopter, said Lt. Mark Langford, a spokesman for the US 7th Fleet. Seven sailors, including the pilot, were injured and three were evacuated for medical treatment in Manila, Philippines, while four were treated on board the ship, per the AP. The three sent to Manila were reported in stable condition on Tuesday morning.
Details on the crash of the multimillion-dollar aircraft were still being verified, and damage to the ship was believed to be superficial. As China has pressed territorial claims in the South China Sea and increased pressure on Taiwan, the US and its allies have stepped up exercises in the region, in what they call freedom of navigation operations in line with international law. Two American carrier strike groups with more than 14,000 sailors and marines are conducting exercises in the sea.
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