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.

F-35 operations are now continuing onboard British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after one of the jets crashed into the sea after taking off from the ship last week.

One of the carrier’s F-35B fighters, from 617 Squadron, crashed during operations in the Mediterranean last week. The pilot was able to eject safely.

F-35 operations continue from British aircraft carrier after crash

The Ministry of Defence said:

“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.

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James
James
7 days ago

They haven’t grounded the fleet which is interesting. Pilot error possibly or something reported that they didn’t feel was a major technical issue?

Phylyp
Phylyp
7 days ago
Reply to  James

Might a birdstrike be another possibility? How close was the QE to land at that time?

Marc
Marc
2 days ago
Reply to  Phylyp

They didn’t take the cover off the engine ! 😂

Joe16
Joe16
7 days ago
Reply to  James

Somone mention Foreign Object ingestion as a possible cause- if you know it was just some debris that got in an engine then you know the rest are safe to fly.
The “launch mode” for using the ramp is very heavily automated, making it rather difficult for the pilot to cause an error that would lead to ditching, from my understanding

George Parker
George Parker
7 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Then in the absence of the fleet being grounded, the possibility of a bird being sucked in is a strong contender. I’d be shocked if some “black box” or other has not stored a huge amount of detail before sinking to the ocean floor. Let’s just wait and see.
It bring home just how few of these assets we have and the devastation of a single loss in peace time.

Jacko
Jacko
7 days ago
Reply to  George Parker
Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
7 days ago
Reply to  Jacko

Good article 👍

AV
7 days ago
Reply to  George Parker

I’m of the belief they’ll have that information already. Black box not essential…they know already, hence the continued flying…think of ‘formula one’ pit crew datalinks and you’ll catch my drift 😉

George Parker
George Parker
6 days ago
Reply to  AV

Drift caught AV. Sounds probable.

DRS
DRS
7 days ago
Reply to  Joe16

Hopefully they also allow the BBC reporter that is on the QNLZ to see the salvage operation too to some degree. Jonathan Beale I think. To add to the documentary they are making.

DRS
DRS
7 days ago
Reply to  DRS

and he gets to interview the pilot with his new MB tie and watch 🙂

Tommo
Tommo
7 days ago
Reply to  DRS

Could the Pilot be inline for the famed Catipillar Club Badge as worn by pilots of the 2nd World War who bailed out with parachutes or is an ejector seat not counted?

Awhb
Awhb
7 days ago
Reply to  James

I’d imagine the investigators will come up blank…

Locking Nut
Locking Nut
5 days ago
Reply to  Awhb

Blank? They will need to cover themselves.

Kirkham Anthony
Kirkham Anthony
7 days ago

I suppose that there has to be a “first in all things. ” Good to know that the pilot is ok.

Matt
Matt
7 days ago

Defence chiefs should be asking themselves, what would we do differently had this happened in the South China Sea instead of the Med. Request support from Allies I suppose.
It would be handy to have a containerised underwater recovery system as one of the potential solutions for the upcoming T26/31 mission bays. But then you would also need a “connector” from sea-surface-to-ship in recovering a jet lifted from the sea floor. A dedicated crane platform perhaps? Any RFA ships out there do anything like that?
[email protected]

James Fennell
James Fennell
7 days ago
Reply to  Matt

This is why we still need Dilligence. During the 1960s we had HMS Triumph as a maintenance / repair / recovery ship for the Far East (at Singapore) as well as RFA Salvage Tugs and then rediscovered that need during the Falklands and bought RFA Dilligence (after she was taken up from trade for the conflict). HMS Challenger was also commissioned (very briefly) at the end of the ’80s for underwater ops, and two new salvage tugs cancelled too. Here we are again realising why you need support, salvage and maintenance vessels if you are going to deploy on enduring… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by James Fennell
Matt
Matt
7 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Thanks for that James! Just been reading up on Diligence after seeing your post, fascinating ship. The “Floating Swiss Army knife”. After this incident, it should highlight that we need support vessels like this during any carrier group tasking.
[email protected]

MikeB1947
MikeB1947
7 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

It’s as if the government decided some years ago that, being part of NATO, the UK does not really need certain ships and other kit because our allies will always help out if problems arise. When the Cameron government suddenly withdrew and scrapped the Nimrod MR2s, it was expected that the US, Norway and even France would provide maritime patrol cover around the British Isles, until a decision was made on a replacement.

James Fennell
James Fennell
7 days ago
Reply to  MikeB1947

We’ve been through a period of force reduction, as a result of the financial crisis and a perception that the threat had receeded after the re-enforced brigade-sized deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan ended a decade ago. Its always the peripheral capabilites that go first when the axe is wielded – those you don’t need to use everyday. Problem is when you need them you really, really need them. Same with MPA and AWACS.

Last edited 7 days ago by James Fennell
Andrew D
Andrew D
7 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

MPs never learn 🐔

Goldilocks
Goldilocks
7 days ago
Reply to  James Fennell

What’s Dilligence status, I think I remember seeing her still laid up at Portsmouth not to long ago?

Michael
Michael
6 days ago
Reply to  Goldilocks

Was still there in the summer. Silly not having such a capability.

Rob
Rob
7 days ago

The med is about 2 miles deep in most places; surely it has been crushed by the water pressure? I guess they still need to rescue the electronics before someone else does though. It will probably look more like a large oxo cube when they do get it up.

Daveyb
Daveyb
7 days ago
Reply to  Rob

The need to rescue as much as possible, especially the aircraft’s skin material. As this uses embedded radar absorbent material (RAM). If a third party gets their hands on this, they will be able to test its radar attenuation capabilities and work out when their radars will be able to detect the F35.

Chris
Chris
7 days ago
Reply to  Rob

I doubt the air frame is airtight, water will just free flood most spaces. The only parts that might suffer this will be the fuel tanks.

Patrick Bindner
Patrick Bindner
7 days ago
Reply to  Rob

It won’t be crused by water pressure. The air rcra t has many opei (engine inlets being huge examples) that permit pressure equalization

peter Wait
peter Wait
7 days ago
Reply to  Rob

The stealth tech would be an issue !

Nigel Collins
Nigel Collins
7 days ago

To begin to see the reason why this is so important. I wonder what the depth was?  “The Defense Ministry is studying (the parts), but at this point, the all-important memory (of the flight data recorder) has not been recovered.” Iwaya also noted that the retrieved part of the flight data recorder was heavily damaged. As a result, it is unlikely to help determine the cause of the crash, which remains unknown. “Because Russia and China are competing with the United States to develop an advanced fighter jet, they would do anything to get their hands on F-35A technological information,”… Read more »

Last edited 7 days ago by Nigel Collins
Crabfat
Crabfat
7 days ago
Reply to  Nigel Collins

I thought flight data recorders were meant to be virtually indestructable? See:

https://skybrary.aero/articles/flight-data-recorder-fdr

This details ICAO standards for the FDR. It’s supposed to survive an “Impact Shock – 3,400 Gs for 6.5 ms”.

Seems very curious that an F-35B’s FDR appears to have been broken into several parts.

Lusty
Lusty
7 days ago

A little-known fact is that every F35B is marked with the code ‘F35B’ in a top-secret location. When it’s submerged, parts of the ‘B’ wash away, turning it into a kind of ‘S’. This denotes that the F35 has self-identified as the top-secret ‘S’ (submersible) variant.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

It’s not Friday….!

Lusty
Lusty
7 days ago

😂 You wait, there’s more to come…

Serious head on: this is a story I’ll be following with great interest. 😉

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  Lusty

😀👍

chris stocken
chris stocken
7 days ago

Bird strike! That lump would need every bit of power to get clear of the deck. A bird strike is not good for any single-engine aircraft on take-off, let alone one that also has a lift fan.

Christopher Allen
Christopher Allen
6 days ago

The Ministry of Defence has always been massively incompetent but to have no support ships in place to recover downed aircraft, no matter how unlikely the scenario may be, is just pathetic, and again, utterly humiliating to have to ask the Americans for help.

C J Ashdown
C J Ashdown
6 days ago

There is no reason to have there own salvage ship that is hardly ever used with no real training for the crew, when there are lots of civilian deep sea diving vessels that have expert crews and built for the purpose and scattered around the world
There are many things the navy would have on its wish list but i doubt a salvage ship would be high on its list

Christopher Allen
Christopher Allen
6 days ago
Reply to  C J Ashdown

Right…. Let’s have civilian vessels trying to recover an extremely valuable military jet aircraft, are you being serious? There is a reason they went straight to the US for help.

Also, Ships can be multi-purpose, now we are back to carrier operations, having such capability isn’t a bad idea.

Paul T
Paul T
6 days ago

If you need a specific Capability, as in this case you use whatever suitable assets are available – be it Military ( your own or provided by your Allies ) or Civilian,beggars can’t be choosers in these situations.

David Smile
David Smile
1 day ago

Why not?, the American’s asked and then tasked foreign private salvage companies to recover the F35 that went down in the sea off Japan in 2019. It’s also worth noting that civilians build these aircraft too,so its not like civilians don’t ever handle these aircraft. The UK had, and has, the ability to recover the UK F35, but the American’s recovery assets were far closer, so why not utilize that asset, isn’t that the whole point of NATO. I’m sure we, and every other serious navy would love a fleet of 100 support ships to accompany every war ship, carrying… Read more »

AJ82
AJ82
6 days ago
Reply to  C J Ashdown

The Royal Navy Auxiliary service had a few, although no idea if they Serco kept them after privatization. Not sure if they ever had any stationed at the rock though and I highly doubt they’ve ever been based in Cyprus so we’d have still asked for local help unless we wanted to wait a couple of months…

They were still civilian vessels and wouldn’t have been following round a carrier group.

Last edited 6 days ago by AJ82