How and why the Navy went to find its F-35 in the abyss of the China Sea

Packed with technologies, the multirole aircraft, F-35C Lightning II had missed its landing in the China Sea. So that it does not fall into the hands of the Chinese, the United States managed to get it from 3,800 meters deep!

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South China Sea, on this January 24, a F-35C Lightning II returns from mission and finally arrives on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The landing went badly and the aircraft hit a post on the deck, made a flat 180°, the pilot ejected and the aircraft ended its course in the water, then sank. Since then, it had been lying at nearly 3,800 m depth, that is to say at about the same depth as the wreck of the Titanic.

Leaving the flagship of American military aviation at the bottom of the ocean, and moreover in international waters, was unthinkable for the United States. The country feared that China could recover this stealth aircraft loaded with technologies developed with the greatest caution for two decades with tens of billions of dollars.

It must be said that China has the talent to increase its military equipment by absorbing technologies from other countries. With such a hold, Beijing would have quickly improved the FC-31, its clone of the’aircraft. Already, the country was largely inspired by the American F-22, when it unveiled its stealth aircraft the Chengdu J-20. A device in the development phase since 2009 and which had benefited from a technological boost thanks to the theft of data from service providers in the American army.

Video of the F-35 crash recorded by the cameras of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. © DR

Race against time

It is for this reason that the US Navy had no intention of leaving its F-35C at the bottom of the sea. It took five weeks to locate the stealth aircraft and recover it from the abysses. It was a team from the SupSalv organization, which specializes in this type of mission, which carried out the work. After using the geographical coordinates of theaccidentthe technicians exploited drone submarines able to withstand high pressures to survey the area. The aircraft having been moved by the various sea currents during its descent, it was necessary to carry out a fairly wide scan to find it. Then, on March 2, a remotely operated vehicle called Curv-21 grappled the F-35C to extract it from the depths. These specialized devices are operated by the American company phoenix.

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