US Navy says crashed F-35C plane lifted from South China Sea

BEIJING (AP) – The U.S. Navy says it recovered an F-35C Lightning II plane that crashed in January while attempting to land on an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea.

The 7th Fleet said a robotic submarine attached rigging to the long-range stealth fighter, which was then lifted from a depth of 3,780 meters (12,400 feet) using a ship’s crane on Wednesday.

The restoration alleviates concerns that China or Russia could reach it first and gain access to its advanced technology, whether to replicate it or learn how to defeat it.

The multimillion-dollar plane was performing “routine flight operations” from the USS Carl Vinson when it crashed Jan. 24, the 7th Fleet said.

Leaked footage showed it coming too low for a landing, first hitting the rear of the deck wing and then skidding across the flight deck and spinning before falling overboard. The pilot crashed and was injured along with six sailors on board the aircraft carrier.

The wreckage is being shipped to a nearby base to search for clues as to the cause of the accident and may be shipped further to the continental United States, the fleet said. The exact place where the accident happened was kept secret.

The aircraft carrier sustained superficial damage and was able to resume operations. The Carl Vinson and her strike force returned to San Diego on February 14 after an eight-month deployment.

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, where it has established military installations on seven man-made islands built on reefs and atolls. It has also increased pressure on self-governing Taiwan to the north, which it claims as its own territory.

The increased presence of the Chinese Navy and Coast Guard has prompted the US and its allies to step up exercises in the region, which it calls freedom of navigation, in line with international law.

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