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US Navy works to recover F-35 plane that crashed on the San Diego-based USS Carl Vinson

Posted at 5:58 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 20:58:56-05

The US Navy is now trying to recover the fighter jet that crashed into the water off the San Diego-based, USS Carl Vinson. The crash happened Monday in the South China Sea. Seven sailors were injured, including the pilot, who was safely ejected.

According to the US Navy, an F-35 has crashed into the ocean for the first time. "These are always unexpected," explains Jim Kidrick with the San Diego Air and Space Museum.

"It's not like we were planning to go pick up an airplane on the South China Seas in the ocean," The CEO and President of the Museum furthers, "So it's mustering forces, coming together."

Kidrick shares that he believes it could take anywhere from 30 to 120 days before the Navy finds the multipurpose fighter attack plane. The F-35 plane is primarily known for its impressive stealth capabilities, the most advanced in the world, making it virtually invisible to enemy radar.

"Any nation would like to have someone's airplane, especially a new technology airplane such as the F-35," shares Kidrick.

The US Navy states that the airplane attempted to land on the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. The plane instead crashed onto the flight deck and fell into the water.

"Certainly just the fall which is about 65 to 70 feet to the ocean it's going to affect some sort of damage to the airplane and of course saltwater intrusion," shares Kidrick.

The plane is now at the bottom of China's seas, and its damages are unknown. "This is where you get into politics of it in the South China Seas and what China considers to be their area compared to international ocean space," mentions Kidrick.

"Which is, of course, why the carrier was operating there quite honestly. We want to ensure that other countries like China know that the seas are free, and we can be there also with other nations."

Kidrick does not believe that China will attempt to recover the aircraft. But because of the technology that is specific only to an F-35 plane, there is speculation that China may try.

"In some cases, of course, they are going to look at the surface material, what the aircraft is actually made of. But also the internal avionic packages and what does this airplane have that we don't know about," emphasizes Kidrick.

It is not known what caused the plane to fail, which is why Kidrick believes recovery of the vessel is imperative. "It's all pieces to a puzzle now. They had an accident, they want to know what caused the accident, how to prevent it, it's all part of a process," shares Kidrick.

The extent of the sailors' injuries has not yet been released. However, ABC10News did reach out to the US Navy's 7th Fleet for more information. We have not yet heard back.

Kidrick explains that the flight deck of the aircraft carrier is the most dangerous location, typically with some of the youngest sailors. Kidrick says he believes that the Navy can recover the F-35 but there are many factors, such as the depth of the water and locating the plane while the USS Carl Vinson is still moving.

Kidrick also points out that the aircraft itself does not have a beacon. The one seat for the pilot, which in this case, was used to eject from the plane, does have a beacon.

Kidrick shares there are roughly a couple hundred F-35 airplanes in the Navy and Marine Corps possession. He believes they value at anywhere between 80 to 120 million dollars. Because of the water damage, this specific aircraft will have taken on, Kidrick does not think it will be used again for flight.