Members of the U.S. Navy are currently racing against time in the South China Sea in attempts to collect a $100 million F35-C jet as forces from the Chinese military attempt to get 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,” stated a report from the BBC. “The jet is the Navy’s newest, and crammed with classified equipment — and, as it is in international waters, is technically fair game.”
Despite the fact that the location of the crash has not been made public, figures within the Chinese Communist Party have made claims that the entirety of the South China Sea’s 1.3 million square mile area belongs to them alone.
The issue with this situation is that China will want to recover the fight jet first in order to reverse engineer “all the secrets behind this very expensive, leading-edge fighting force.”
“It’s vitally important the US gets this back,” stated one defense consultant, Abi Austen. “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,” stated Austen.
Throughout history, similar intelligence victories have been secured by military enemies.
“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,” highlighted the BBC. “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,” stated Lockheed Martin in a release. “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.”
Another feature that would make this a prime target is “the most advanced and comprehensive sensor suite of any fighter jet in history,” as well as sporting the “largest wingspan and most robust landing gear of all F-35 variants.”
This jet sports an array of 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.”
As reported by CNN, the pilot in control of the now 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,” concluded CNN.