A British F-35B jet crashed in international waters in the southern Mediterranean on Wednesday, and now the U.K. and U.S. militaries are teaming up to recover the plane that holds millions of dollars worth of sensitive technology.
The F-35, the U.K.’s most advanced stealth fighter jet, was one of 18 aboard the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Eight belonged to the U.K., and 10 were deployed by the U.S., according to The Guardian.
The Queen Elizabeth was returning from a deployment in the Far East when the jet crashed into waters about a mile deep while taking off, the Independent reported.
The crash came during “routine flying operations,” according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense.
The pilot ejected from the aircraft and was safely returned to the ship.
A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning.
The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) November 17, 2021
However, an Anglo-American team is now scrambling to recover the high-tech fighter jet from an area frequented by Russian vessels.
It would be a very valuable find for a hostile force.
The Independent reported that the F-35 is worth around £100 million, equivalent to almost $135 million.
The jet has a top speed of 1,200 mph and carries its weapons internally to reduce drag, according to Forces Net.
It is capable of taking off from a short runway and landing vertically.
Britain purchased 48 F-35s from Lockheed Martin for £6 billion. It currently has 24 of them, with the rest to be delivered by 2025.
“The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the UK’s formidable air power to our adversaries,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a June statement, according to CNN.
The aircraft crashed close to North Africa. British military sources said “appropriate action” will be taken if any non-allied force attempts to get to the wreckage, the Independent reported.
The U.S. Navy unit taking part in the recovery operation is based in Spain and specializes in undersea salvage.
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