The U.S. Navy is currently in a race against the clock in the South China Sea to recover a $100 million F35-C jet — before the Chinese military gets there first.
“The $100m F35-C plane came down in the South China Sea after what the Navy describes as a ‘mishap’ during take-off from the USS Carl Vinson,” the BBC reported. “The jet is the Navy’s newest, and crammed with classified equipment — and, as it is in international waters, is technically fair game.”
Although the location of the crash has not been revealed, the Chinese Communist Party claims almost all of the South China Sea’s 1.3 million square mile area as its territory.
The Chinese military will want to reach the fighter jet first in order to harvest “all the secrets behind this very expensive, leading-edge fighting force.”
“It’s vitally important the US gets this back,” Abi Austen, a defense consultant, said. “The F-35 is basically like a flying computer. It’s designed to link up other assets — what the Air Force calls ‘linking sensors to shooters’.”
“If they can get into the 35’s networking capabilities, it effectively undermines the whole carrier philosophy,” Austen added.
Similar intelligence victories have been achieved by military adversaries in the past.
“In 1974, at the height of the Cold War, the CIA secretly pulled a Russian submarine from the sea floor off the coast of Hawaii using a giant mechanical claw,” the BBC noted. “Two years earlier, the Chinese military secretly salvaged the UK submarine HMS Poseidon which sank off China’s east coast.”
“The F-35C is the first and world’s only long-range stealth strike fighter designed and built explicitly for Navy carrier operations,” Lockheed Martin explained. “Its configuration, embedded sensors, internal fuel and weapons capacity, aligned edges, and state of the art manufacturing processes all contribute to the F-35’s unique Very Low Observable stealth performance. This enables pilots to evade enemy detection and operate in anti-access and contested environments, improving lethality and survivability.”
Other features include “the most advanced and comprehensive sensor suite of any fighter jet in history,” as well as boasting the “largest wingspan and most robust landing gear of all F-35 variants.”
The supersonic jet carries both internal and external weapons, and “can operate as an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance asset and battle manager, sharing information to all networked ground, sea and air assets in the battlespace.”
According to CNN, the pilot of the downed F-35C “was conducting routine flight operations when the crash happened. They safely ejected and were recovered by a military helicopter, Pacific Fleet said. The pilot is in stable condition.”
“Six others were injured on the deck of the carrier. Three required evacuation to a medical facility in Manila, Philippines, where they are in stable condition, according to Pacific Fleet. The other three sailors were treated on the carrier and have been released,” CNN added.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.