The video shows the F-35C suffering a ramp strike before bursting in flames and skidding off the deck.
Video footage from the USS Carl Vinson’s Pilot’s Landing Aid Television (PLAT) camera has just been leaked online, showing what happened to the F-35C of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147 that crashed on January 24, 2022 and sunk in the South China Sea. In the days after the crash, a photo of the F-35C floating in the sea was leaked online, immediately followed by a video shot from the fantail and showing the last seconds before the touchdown. The U.S. Navy confirmed a few days later the authenticity of both the photo and video.
The video leaked today was posted on Reddit and shows both the PLAT camera video and another point of view from the aircraft carrier’s island. We can see the Lightning II coming in with a rapidly increasing sink rate just before the touchdown, which prompted the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) or “Paddles” to start screaming on the radio “power” and then “wave off, wave off” to instruct the pilot to abort the landing and go around immediately.
The next chilling moments, which according to the cameras happened at 16:30:30, show what seems to be a ramp strike or a very short and heavy landing. The quality of the video as it was recorded from a computer screen and the fact that it was recorded with some parallax do not give a very clear view. Either way, the aircraft hit very hard the ship, with the impact shredding off the main landing gear and causing the F-35 to bounce on the deck and hitting it nose-first, before starting to skid sideways while engulfed in flames.
As the aircraft carrier’s crew calls for the fire emergency, the video switches to the other camera, which shows the aftermath of the crash. The second camera’s footage begins as the LSO calls the pilot for more power on the final approach, before issuing the desperate “wave off”. The camera shows that the pilot bailed out as the aircraft went completely sideways in the middle of the deck and already engulfed in flames. The F-35 than proceeded out of control and fell straight in the sea, while some burning pieces flew towards other aircraft parked on the deck, with the emergency crew quickly intervening to put the fires out.
The user that posted the video on Reddit says that the video was not recorded by him/her, without specifying where it was obtained. The video shot from the fantail was first shared on Telegram, before becoming viral on Instagram and other socials. The U.S. Navy did not confirm the video’s authenticity yet, even if the footage appears to be consistent with the details about the incident that have surfaced so far.
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 video adds some more evidence about what happened while the official investigation proceeds. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is working on the recovery of the 5th gen aircraft from the bottom of the sea.