U.S. Navy Recovers F-35C Lost in Landing Accident on USS Carl Vinson in January

F-35C recovered
U.S. Navy contracted diving support vessel (DSCV) Picasso, successfully retrieved the F-35C Lightning II aircraft that crashed during routine flight operations earlier this year in the South China Sea. (Photo:US Navy)

Remotely Operated Submarine Attaches Cables to F-35C at a Depth of Two Miles.

The U.S. Navy has said it successfully recovered the Lockheed F-35C Lightning II that went overboard from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea during a landing accident on Jan. 24, 2022. Seven crew members were injured when the accident occurred. The pilot of the F-35C ejected from the aircraft safely as it went into the water.

The crashed aircraft was pulled to the surface earlier this week using a series of cranes and cables that were attached by a remotely operated submarine at a depth of approximately two miles.

“The wreckage was recovered from a depth of approximately 12,400-feet by a team from CTF 75 and the NAVSEA’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) embarked on the diving support construction vessel (DSCV) Picasso,” the Navy said in a statement from the Seventh Fleet. “The task force’s expertise in rapid, scalable command, control, and communications, agile logistics, organic security, and explosive ordnance disposal was the most flexible choice for the fleet commander to respond in a timely manner,” CTF 75 Commodore, Capt. Gareth Healy said in a statement.

According to reports at the time of the accident published by the U.S. Naval Institute, “Vinson embarked [on August 3, 2021] with 10 F-35Cs assigned to the Strike Fighter Squadron, VFA-147, the “Argonauts” flying from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California”. The aircraft that crashed in the South China Sea in January and was recovered this week was from VFA-147.

The U.S. Navy accident in the South China Sea in January 2022 followed another accident at sea: on November 16, 2021, a U.K. F-35B fell off the edge of Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R06) in the Eastern Mediterranean during a takeoff attempt from the carrier’s ski jump deck. The pilot in the U.K. accident ejected safely and the aircraft was recovered after a three-week operation.

This deployment of the F-35C onboard the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) with VFA-147 was the first operational deployment of a U.S. Navy squadron equipped with the F-35C Lightning II.

“The recovery effort shows the US Navy’s commitment to its assets, and a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the Navy said in a statement on Thursday.

In addition to the seven injuries and the loss of the expensive aircraft, the incident was significant because of ongoing tensions between China and Taiwan in the region and concerns that the wreckage of the F-35C could fall into Chinese hands, potentially exposing classified technology on the aircraft.

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.