It has been reported that a British F-35 pilot realised the rain cover was still on and tried to abort take-off but was too late to stop the jet before the end of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s runway.
One of the carrier’s F-35B fighters, from 617 Squadron, crashed during operations in the Mediterranean last week. It is important to note that this is speculation and not confirmation.
In an exclusive here, Jereme Starkey was told:
“They knew almost right away. The covers and engine blanks are supposed to be removed before flight. The ground crew do it and they are incredibly strict. Then the pilot walks round.”
The pilot of the jet suffered minor injuries and was rescued by helicopter. Before assigning blame to anyone, it’s important to remember we do not have all (or perhaps any) of the facts surrounding the cause of this.
The Ministry of Defence said on the day:
“A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning. The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
A number of British and American F-35 jets are based on HMS Queen Elizabeth. The aircraft carrier and her strike group are on the return leg of a global deployment.
The operation to recover the sunken British F-35 jet is ongoing.
Britain and America are currently engaged in operations to salvage an F-35B which ditched into the ocean after taking off from HMS Queen Elizabeth.
It is understood that while the point at which the jet entered the sea is known, the aircraft’s wings would have made it glide underwater for a reasonable distance before settling to the bottom of the sea bed.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“There is an ongoing operation to recover the F-35 jet. I am pleased that our pilot is safe and well. We will investigate what happened.”
According to a report in The Times, Britain has asked the United States to help due to the close proximity of American salvage equipment based in Spain.