Pictures and video footage have emerged showing the moments before and after a US Navy fighter jet crashed into the South China Sea while attempting to land on an aircraft carrier.
In the video, which has circulated widely on social media, the plane – an F-35C stealth fighter – approaches the landing deck of an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, during a routine operation. The footage shows the plane coming in to land and then disappearing from view with a bang, but the clip cuts off before the crash itself can be seen.
Still images are also circulating showing the plane in the water, partially submerged with its ejector seat missing.
According to the Navy, the fighter hit the flight deck of the Vinson, at which point the pilot ejected before it fell into the water. Along with the pilot, six sailors aboard the ship were reportedly injured.
The wreckage of the advanced aircraft has yet to be recovered from the ocean floor, a risky situation given that the crash took place in the South China Sea – an enormous body of water claimed almost in its entirety by the Chinese government on a premise not accepted by most of the rest of the world.
Over the last decade and more, the Chinese military has steadily increased its presence in the region, building new bases on artificial land and intermittently harassing civilian ships belonging to neighbouring countries.
For their part, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said after the crash that they have “no interests” in the US plane, and advised that the American military “contribute more to regional peace and stability, rather than flexing force at every turn.”
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