Photo Supposedly Showing The F-35C That Fell Into The Sea After Landing Mishap Leaked Online

F-35C floating
The F-35C floating next to USS Carl Vinson in the image posted online (Author: unknown via Reddit)

The image shows the F-35C floating on water after falling from USS Carl Vinson.

An interesting image has been published on Reddit and across the various social networks on Jan. 27, 2022. It shows a pretty intact F-35C floating in the sea, with a missing canopy and ejection seat: the photograph, that appears to be genuine (although we can’t authenticate the image at this time), was allegedly taken after the Lightning II jet had fallen from USS Carl Vinson, following the landing mishap that occurred on on Jan. 24, 2022.

As we have already reported, the F-35C, belonging to the “Argonauts” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 and assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 suffered a landing mishap that forced the pilot to eject and injured 7 sailors.

Although there were many speculations concerning the root cause of the incident and how it unfolded, so far, no official statement has been released.

The shot was probably taken moments before the F-35C aircraft started to sink into the waters of South China Sea, where the U.S. Navy plans to recover it in order to prevent China or Russia from putting their hands on sensitive parts of the precious 5th generation aircraft.

The leaked image (whose factual status could change in the future since, as explained, it can’t be verified) immediately brings back to the recent accident involving a British F-35B that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea after a failed take off from Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, on Nov. 24, 2021. As you will probably remember, a video taken from one of the cameras pointed towards the flight deck and showing the incident, was leaked online. A male crew member of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s ship company was arrested for leaking the video online. In that mishap, the pilot successfully ejected and the airframe was recovered from the bottom of the sea: a photo of the wreckage of the F-35B recovered by a chartered salvage ship, was also leaked and started circulating online on Jan. 21, 2022.

It took two weeks to locate the wreck of the British F-35B and another week to bring it up, according to defence sources mentioned by British newspapers. As reported, the recovery effort was complicated by the location where the F-35 ditched, as it happened in open water with depths that can exceed, in some areas, over 3,000 meters (about 10,000 feet), and by rough sea conditions while the operations were taking place.

We don’t know how much effort the recovery of the U.S. Navy F-35C will require. But, as mentioned above, the sea service has already started the operations to retrieve the airframe so as to protect the technological secrets of its most advanced fighter.

H/T to @yo_arfi for the heads-up!

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.