There were recently two US carriers in the Philippine Sea carrying out a Naval drill with Japan. The drill seemed to go well but on Monday things took a turn when something went wrong during a landing on the USS Carl Vinson. This is allegedly video of the final approach of a $100 million F-35C stealth fighter that was landing.
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The video cuts off but what apparently happened next is that the plane impacted and then slid off the deck. The pilot ejected but was injured. In addition, 6 sailors were injured in the crash. The photo above shows the plane floating in the South China Sea before it sank. And now the race is on to try to recover the plane before China can get to it.
An effort to recover the fighter jet from the bottom of the South China Sea had begun, said Lt. Nicholas Lingo, another 7th Fleet spokesperson.
The F-35C contains some of the Navy’s most advanced technology, and the analysts said Washington would want to keep it out of Beijing’s hands.
However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday they were aware that a US Navy stealth fighter had crashed in the South China Sea, but “had no interests in their plane.”
Officially, China isn’t interested in the plane but it sounds like the Pentagon isn’t buying that:
There is no doubt China wants this plane, although cyber espionage may mean they already have some knowledge of its interior, layout and workings, says Bryce Barros, a China affairs analyst and security fellow at the Truman Project.
“I think they would want to see actual parts of the plane, to better understand how it is laid out and find its vulnerabilities.”
…it is widely believed that China got its hands on the wreckage of a secret US “stealth” helicopter that crash-landed in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in 2011.
Mr Barros said: “We are sure the Chinese military got to see the onboard equipment and software then.”
The current plans seems to be to attach balloons to the plane and let it float back to the surface. Then it could be easily pulled aboard a salvage vehicle. However the timeline for such a recovery could be a long one. Just getting salvage ships in the area could take more than a week. The BBC quoted an unnamed military official who said there was an easier way. “The easiest thing to do would be to torpedo it!” he said. But, at least for now, that’s not the plan.