RAF F-35 fighter jet crashes into sea as pilot ejects over Mediterranean

An F-35 fighter jet crashed into the sea after a pilot had to eject over the Mediterranean.

The incident involved one of the RAF’s eight F-35b aircraft, which are currently on board HMS Queen Elizabeth as she continues her maiden voyage. 

It is understood that the incident happened over international waters at 10am on Wednesday, shortly after take off.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the pilot had been recovered, and an investigation has begun. This is the first time such an incident has happened.

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, told reporters in Rome: “The F35 ditched soon after take off. We are pleased that the pilot is safe and well and back on board. Our operational training flights continue.” 

There are 18 F-35bs on the aircraft carrier, 10 of which are made up from the US Marine Corps. 

The jets, which cost around £100million each, have conducted around 2,000 take-offs and landings on board HMS Queen Elizabeth without any major incident over the past six months.

No other vessels or aircraft were involved in the incident, which is understood to be the result of either a technical or human error.

It comes ahead of the Prince of Wales’s visit to the aircraft carrier on Friday as part of a royal visit to Egypt.

It is understood that efforts will now begin to recover the jet, which contains highly sensitive technology and data. 

A Ministry of Defence spokesman added: “A British F-35 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.”

Jets from the vessel previously participated in strikes against the remnants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The 65,000-tonne Royal Navy flagship is returning to the UK from its maiden deployment, which included exercises with the Indian military.

It was part of the carrier strike group’s deployment to the Indo-Pacific amid heightened tensions with China in the region.

The jets are operated by the renowned 617 Squadron, also known as the “Dambusters” squadron.

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, spent time on board the vessel last month on the final day of her two-day visit to India.

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