The F-35C Joint Strike Fighter that encountered a “landing mishap” aboard the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson was salvaged Wednesday from the South China Sea.
The U.S. 7th Fleet’s Task Force 75 and Naval Sea Systems Command’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving pulled the jet up from a depth of approximately 12,400 feet, according to the 7th Fleet. The teams used a CURV-21 — a 6,400-pound, remotely operated deep ocean salvage vehicle — to heave the aircraft onto the diving support construction vessel Picasso.
“The task force’s expertise in rapid, scalable command, control and communications, agile logistics, organic security, and explosive ordnance disposal was the most flexible choice for the fleet commander to respond in a timely manner,” Capt. Gareth Healy, commodore of Task Force 75, said in a Navy news release.
“Ultimately, this deliberate approach resulted in the correct capabilities conducting recovery operations within 37 days of the incident,” Healy said. “Given the unique challenges of this problem, and the unique technical capabilities that NAVSEA delivered, this was an aggressive and achievable timeline.”
The aircraft is headed to a “nearby military installation” for the ongoing investigation into the incident and to determine if it will head back to the U.S.
USNI News was the first to report on the salvage operation.
The crash, which injured seven sailors, severed four of the arresting cables on the Vinson’s deck used to catch landing aircraft, Defense News previously reported. Even so, the carrier was ready to land and launch aircraft within 45 minutes of the crash.
“When the mishap happened, we had additional aircraft airborne that needed to land,” a defense official who was not authorized to comment publicly on ongoing investigations, told Defense News in February. “The training kicked in immediately.”
Photos and video footage of the Jan. 24 crash were released, depicting the jet crashing into the deck before careening overboard and briefly floating in the South China Sea.
A Navy officer and four senior enlisted leaders were charged with failure to obey an order under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for releasing the video footage.
The Vinson, which got underway in August, returned to San Diego in February at the end of its scheduled deployment. It was the first deployment to include the F-35C Lightning II fighter jet and the CMV-22 Osprey.