A British F-35B fighter jet crashed into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Syria, after taking off from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the crash in a statement, saying that a “British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning.”
The pilot was safely rescued and returned to the aircraft carrier and an investigation has been launched into the incident, with the ministry saying it “would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.” the British MOD spokesperson said.
Earlier in November, the UK took delivery of three F-35 stealth fighters, at a cost of Pound 100 million ($135 million) apiece, bringing the total number in the country’s fleet to 24. The British government has ordered six more jets, which are set to arrive next year, and seven that are due in 2023, with the aim of having 48 active F-35s by 2025.
It should be noted that both the US and British F-35B fighters are present on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, however, a representative of the British Ministry of Defense has confirmed that the crashed plane belongs to them.
Race against Russians
Russian media alleged that the British fighter jet was at that time making a provocative flight near the Syrian coast, but shortly after, contact with the pilot was lost.
By plunging into international waters, the crash triggered a scramble to find the next-generation jet from the sea bed before it could be reached by Russia. It s thought to be the first time an F35-B has crashed in such an area.
Royal Navy submarines and special forces in underwater race against Russians to recover crashed £100m F-35 fighter jet with top secret stealth technology from the bottom of the Mediterranean.
The technology aboard the US-designed aircraft, including top secret radar and sensors, is hugely sensitive as it allows the F-35 to fly ‘unseen’ in hostile territory at supersonic speeds. However, it is likely that China already knows all there is to know about the jet due to spying.
The aircraft was located on Wednesday afternoon and the site on the sea bed will be manned by an Anglo-US dive security team until the jet is lifted to the surface. The operation, shrouded in secrecy, is understood to involve divers and miniature submarines.
As the UK’s most advanced and expensive jet, the single-seater can land vertically and only needs a short runway to take off. It is the first one Britain has lost and the incident is the first mishap for the RAF’s F-35B fleet and for the £3billion aircraft carrier which left the UK seven months ago.
This week’s crash raises fresh questions about the F-35B, of which Britain currently has 24. The UK is set to buy 138 of the fighter jets from US aviation giant Lockheed Martin for £9.1billion in the coming years, with 48 of those expected to be delivered by 2025.