British F-35 warplane crashes into Mediterranean

FILE - The aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth participates in the NATO Steadfast Defender 2021 exercise off the coast of Portugal, May 27, 2021. An F35 jet from a British aircraft carrier has crashed in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean Sea. The Ministry of Defense said the jet’s pilot ejected safely Wednesday, Nov. 17 and returned to the HMS Queen Elizabeth. An official investigation has been opened. (AP Photo/Ana Brigida, file)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

One of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) F-35B fighter planes crashed in the Mediterranean on Wednesday. The pilot was catapulted, rescued from the sea, and taken back safely to the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier of the British Royal Navy, on which the plane was stationed.

An investigation has been launched to find out what was behind the crash, according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Wednesday. It is the first instance of an F-35 crashing while in service.

The ministry stressed that the British F-35 crashed in the international waters of the Mediterranean during routine operations and no other aircraft were involved in the incident.

The ministry said it would “not be appropriate” to provide more details for the time being, given the investigation that has already begun.

The announcement also did not indicate whether there were any plans to lift the highly advanced U.S.-made British combat aircraft from the sea. Eight British and ten American F-35s are currently stationed on the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the largest warship in the British Royal Navy.

Britain has pledged a long-term purchase of a total of 138 F-35s with “stealth” technology, largely invisible to radar reconnaissance, and has ordered 48 of them from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, a US aerospace and military group. Lockheed Martin previously reported that the F-35B version cost $122 million at the time of the UK order.

As of Nov. 1 2021, more than 720 of the planes introduced in 2006 are in service with various branches of the U.S. military and 14 other countries, with Japan the biggest single customer, with 13 planes operational and a total of 147 on order. Britain is the second-biggest foreign customer of the plane.

The accident will be investigated by the Defense Accident Investigation Branch, who usually release preliminary findings in a few weeks and a full report typically after a year.

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