British F-35 fighter jet crashes into Mediterranean as pilot ejects

Probe begins to see if the crash of the £100m jet was caused by either technical or human error

Kim Sengupta,Sam Hancock
Wednesday 17 November 2021 19:56 GMT
An F35 fighter jet prepares to land on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth last month
An F35 fighter jet prepares to land on the flight deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth last month (AFP via Getty Images)

An investigation has been launched after the pilot of a British F-35 fighter jet was forced to eject during routine operations over the Mediterranean Sea.

The pilot, part of the crew of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, was found safe and has since been returned to the ship, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a brief statement.

The MoD announced that an “urgent investigation” was underway into Wednesday’s incident, which involved no other aircraft or naval vessels from any other country.

“A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning,” said the MoD. “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.”

The investigation will reportedly focus on potential technical or human error.

The F-35, worth more than £100m each, is the UK’s first aircraft which uses highly-advanced and sensitive “stealth technology”.

Efforts are believed to be underway to establish if the aircraft can be recovered from the water.

The eight aircraft on board HMS Queen Elizabeth took part in operations against Isis in the summer before the strike group led by the aircraft-carrier sailed to the Far East into disputed waters in the Indo-Pacific.

The “fifth generation” F-35 is one of the most expensive air weapons platforms in the world; the UK has signed deal worth nine billion pounds to buy 28 aircraft by 2025.

The cost of the aircraft, built by Lockheed Martin, continued to rise during the manufacturing process leading to strong criticism from former US president, Donald Trump.

In addition, a long list of problems emerged with the Pentagon acknowledging that 275 different faults have been found in the attack system. The US Marine Corps suspended operations on its version of the aircraft, the same as the ones used by the UK, after computer malfunctions.

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