A U.S. military fighter jet crashed on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier in the South China Sea as its pilot had a mishap while landing on Monday, Jan. 24.
In a statement, U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet said that an F-35C Lightning II, assigned to Carrier Air Wing 2, had a landing mishap on the deck while USS Carl Vinson was conducting routine flight operations in the South China Sea on Jan. 24.
The Navy said that the pilot ejected safely from the aircraft and was recovered via U.S. military helicopter. He is in stable condition.
“There were seven total Sailors injured; three Sailors required MEDEVAC to a medical treatment facility in Manila, Philippines, and four were treated by on-board medical personnel,” the Navy added.
All three MEDEVACs are assessed as stable, and three of the four sailors treated by on-board medical have been released.
Additional details and the cause of the inflight mishap are under investigation.
According to CNN, Monday’s crash is the first for an F-35C, the U.S. Navy’s variant of the single-engine stealth fighter, designed for operations off aircraft carriers.
The F-35C was the last of the three variants to become operational in only 2019. The F-35A takes off and lands on conventional runways, and the F-35B is a short-take-off vertical landing aircraft that can operate off the Navy’s amphibious assault ships.
Some U.S. allies and partners fly the F-35 versions, including Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, and Israel.
USS Carl Vinson was the first among the U.S. Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers to deploy with the F-35C when it left San Diego last August.
“This deployment marks the first time in U.S. naval aviation history that a stealth strike fighter has been deployed operationally on an aircraft carrier,” said Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer.
The South China Sea has been a site of frequent naval activity in the past several years as China has asserted its claims over almost all of the area by building up and militarizing islands and reefs.
However, the U.S. military asserts its right to operate freely in international waters.