Wreckage Of £100M British F-35 Jet Pulled Out Of The Mediterranean After Weeks-Long Search Ops

The wreckage of a £100 million F-35 fighter jet that crashed off the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth has been recovered from the Mediterranean’s depths.

Last month, the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) jet crashed into the eastern Mediterranean, prompting a massive international search. The accident happened during its take-off from Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Western military leaders were deeply worried fearing that the jet’s secret stealth technology might slip into Russian hands. Surveillance footage captured the pilot successfully ejecting as the plane approached the end of the runway.

F-35 Stealth Jets, UK

The Royal Navy and allies have been patrolling the Eastern Mediterranean near the accident spot where the £100 million ($133 million) jet sunk. “Operations to retrieve the UK F-35 in the Mediterranean Sea have successfully finished,” according to a statement from the UK Ministry of Defense, as quoted by The Sun. “There is no threat or compromise to critical equipment on the aircraft.”

It took two weeks to retrieve the wreckage on the seafloor and another week to properly bring it to the surface. To lead the search and recovery mission, the US Navy dispatched a specialist deep salvage ship from its 6th Fleet HQ in Rota, Spain. 

As previously reported by The Eurasian Times, the recent crash of the British F-35B was reportedly caused by a rain cover that was not removed. The rain cover got sucked into the stealth plane’s engine. Later, a leaked video purportedly showing the accident started doing the rounds on social media.

The U.K. Defence Journal reported, citing unnamed people, that the person who leaked the footage after capturing it on their phone had been arrested. Moreover, recovering the wreckage of the F-35B is a big relief for the UK, as Russia has an active presence in the Mediterranean and is well equipped with special-mission submarines and the deep-sea recovery ship Yantar. 

“We are aware of Russian submarine capabilities, and you are very correct in describing them as state-of-the-art,” National Security Adviser Sir Stephen Lovegrove told the House of Commons Defense Committee on 6 Dec. 

“The measures and procedures we’re taking right now are aimed, at least in part, at keeping the F-35B’s technology as secret as you’d like it to be. Those security concerns are at the forefront of our minds. According to my understanding, the experts are aware of the aircraft’s whereabouts,” he said.

“Recovery of the flight data recorder and wreckage is absolutely critical for an accurate inquiry to ascertain the causes of the disaster,” Lovegrove had previously stated.

Investigators in the United Kingdom may be able to completely assess the reasons for the crash now that the plane’s wreckage has been recovered, although it’s unclear when that information will be made public.