The US Navy has successfully dropped an F-35C fighter jet from one of its carriers in the South China Sea, just months after the Royal Navy did the same with an F-35B in the Mediterranean .
F-35C Lightning II in a high-G maneuver (not the offending craft).
The ASU Carl Vinson had what the US Navy described as a “landing accident” when one of its planes ended up at sea. Its pilot ejected and was picked up by helicopter; he is said to be in stable condition. Seven sailors were reportedly injured in the incident, three of whom were evacuated to Manila for treatment.
Images of the $100million fighter jet wallowing in the sea inevitably ended up on Twitter, echoing a similar situation earlier this month when photos of a British F-35B jump plane which is fell from the front of HMS queen elizabeth also ended up in the cold wet stuff.
This image is an apt metaphor for the entire F-35 program, which after 21 years of development and countless billions of dollars spent, is still “at sea” https://t.co/bXGja4auJb pic.twitter.com/JZcRKl4SyD
— Giovanni de Briganti (@JoedeBrig) January 27, 2022
As previously reported, video of a British F-35B (the short takeoff and vertical landing version of the F-35 Lightning II) emerged when the plane suffered a crash on takeoff attributed to the deck crew failed to remove critical shutter cover. The aircraft failed to accelerate on takeoff and instead rolled over onto the bow of the 65,000 ton warship.
Similarly, the landing accident of the American plane, which occurred this week, could have deeper repercussions. CNN quoted a former US naval corps as saying China could claim salvage rights to the wreckage of the sunken plane, giving the Middle Kingdom direct access to all of its secrets.
Such a decision is dubious – the United States is no more likely to let China recover the wreckage of the F-35C than to elect Xi Jinping as President of the United States – but the fact that someone discussed highlights tensions over China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea, which are not widely supported. The international community widely sees them as an attempt at land grabbing.
Assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, the jet was on a routine training sortie when the pilot encountered difficulty. The register tried an F-35B simulator a few years ago (well, someone has to endure those tough missions to let the general public know what’s really going on) and landing the plane seemed to be exceptionally easy with levels high automation.
An automation failure would revert the pilot to basic stick and rudder skills, which could lead to an accident if unprepared for it. Aviation safety professionals refer to these unexpected scenarios as a “burst”. ®