There’s a difference between a disaster and a fiasco. And right now the US Navy is doing everything in its power to prevent the former from turning into the latter. During routine operations on Monday the F-35C, the most advanced fighter jet in the entire fleet crash-landed into the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea.
Fortunately, the pilot was able to eject in time, as he and six sailors were reported to suffer non-life-threatening injuries in the aftermath while the Vinson suffered only superficial damage to its flight deck. As of now, the attention turns to the retrieval of the $100 million dollar warplane in what has become a race against time in highly contested waters.
As tensions with China heat up, the Navy has released only a few details on the recovery plan for the F-35C. What we do know is that aircraft lies smack dab in a waterway where the Chinese naval and coast guard vessels patrol vigilantly. Complicating matters, China possesses similar recovery equipment, and the fighter’s construction and tech would be of great interest to their military. The concern at the moment is that they could potentially make a claim for the salvage rights based on their territorial claims in the South China Sea despite the political risks.
At the very least, China is expected to maintain a presence and linger as the Navy begins what is expected to be a months-long recovery effort depending on how deep the aircraft has sunk. Thus far there has been no official comment from China’s leaders regarding the crash.
Here’s hoping things go as smooth as possible moving forward.