A British F-35 stealth jet has crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday, the UK Ministry of Defense has confirmed, during what's being described as route flying operations from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
According to details from the British military, "A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning." The pilot was described as in safe condition and is back on the ship after the major incident.
"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," the military statement said.
The Mediterranean deployment is part of the HMS Queen Elizabeth's maiden operational cruise which began last spring, and marks the first major accident involving any of its aircraft.
The carrier recently entered Mediterranean waters after transiting the Suez canal, coming from a deployment in the Asia-Pacific region. According to The Drive, the crashed F-35 was part of a contingent of less than a dozen F-35s aboard:
Prior to this mishap, the carrier had a contingent of eight F-35Bs from the Royal Air Force’s No 617 Squadron, the “Dambusters,” onboard. These are embarked alongside 10 similar jets from the U.S. Marines Corps’ Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, the “Wake Island Avengers,” home-based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, but currently under British command.
A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning.— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) November 17, 2021
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.
The F-35 that went down was an estimated 135 million dollars, and had cutting-edge stealth technology and radar.
So far there are no indications that other aircraft were involved, and details have remained limited. It's also unclear whether it may have crashed during landing or takeoff. Some half a dozen other Royal Navy ships are said to be escorting the HMS Elizabeth carrier, after its departure from UK waters beginning on May 22.
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Below is Royal Navy footage of take-offs and landings of F-35 jets in the North Sea, conducted aboard the HMS Elizabeth...