November 18, 2021 (by Lieven Dewitte) - A British F-35B crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday morning while operating off the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
RAF/RN F-35B #ZM152 is seen on a test flight at NAS Fort Worth on June 14th, 2019. [Photo by Keith Snyder]
The pilot with the 617th "Dambusters" Squadron bailed out of the F-35B (BK-18
) and was returned safely to the ship.
Britain operates the F-35B, a single-engine, short-take-off vertical landing variant of the US-developed stealth jet, which cost about $115 million each to build.
In June, F-35s operating off the Queen Elizabeth flew combat missions over the Middle East against ISIS, the first combat action for a UK aircraft carrier in more than a decade.
British F-35s saw their first combat in 2019, flying strikes against ISIS in Iraq
and Syria from a Royal Air Force base on the island of Cyprus.
With plans to acquire 138 F-35s, Britain would be the third-largest operator of the Lockheed-Martin produced jets, behind the United States and Japan.
Both the US and Japan have lost F-35s to accidents.
In September 2018, a US Marine Corps F-35B crashed in South Carolina
, the first-ever crash of an F-35.
In April 2019, a Japanese F-35A crashed into the Pacific Ocean
off northern Japan, killing its pilot. The Japanese Defense Ministry later attributed that crash to spatial disorientation, meaning the pilot couldn't sense his surroundings adequately and essentially flew the stealth fighter straight into the ocean during the night training mission.
In May 2020, a US Air Force F-35A crashed in Florida
during routine training, but the pilot ejected safely.
There was no news on whether the United Kingdom would attempt to salvage the F-35's wreckage from the Mediterranean.
When the Japanese F-35 fighter jet crashed in 2019, there was worry that the wreckage could be used by potential enemies such as Russia and China to obtain access to the aircraft's superior technologies.
Update: A video surfaced online that appeared to show the the fifth-generation aircraft slipping off the aircraft carrier's ski jump and crashing into the sea during a takeoff mishap.
Operations to recover the UK F-35 jet in the Mediterranean Sea have successfully concluded in December 2021.