Britain Wants American Help to Recover Sunk F-35B as Adversaries Could Seek to Obtain Aircraft

Following the crash of a British F-35B into the Mediterranean Sea in November 17th, the country’s Ministry of Defence reportedly approached the United States for support recovering the aircraft. Retrieving the stealth fighter from the seafloor remains an urgent priority to prevent it or any components from being acquired by potential adversaries - namely Russia which retains a strong underwater presence and maintains a sizeable fleet in the region. The jet reportedly crashed soon after takeoff from Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, which embarked on its maiden cruise earlier in the year. Only around eight British F-35Bs are currently deployed from the carrier, with the fighter’s entry into service remaining very slow. The American Towed Pinger Locator 25 device may be able to trace the fighter’s beacon, and is advertised as being able to locate targets down to depths of 6000 metres. The equipment was reportedly quickly dispatched to the area. Sources cited by British media reported that the fighter would be brought to the surface using remote-controlled undersea vehicles and inflatable bags, with the British armed forces closely monitoring the area to prevent foreign ships from attempting to locate the fighter first. With the F-35 being part of a $1.6 billion weapons program, and over 3000 of the aircraft planned to be built, access to the wreckage of an F-35B would be a valuable prize for any potential U.S. adversary.

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