A U.S. F-35C Lightning II jet has just crash-landed on the deck of the aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), while doing routine flight operations within the West Philippine Sea (also known as the South China Sea) today. Seven U.S. military personnel were said to be injured because of the accident.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), front, and Wasp-class landing helicopter dock USS Essex (LHD 2) transit the Philippine Sea Jan. 22, 2022. Operating as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, units assigned to Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Groups, Essex and America Amphibious Ready Groups, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force are conducting training to preserve and protect a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Larissa T. Dougherty)

The U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs reported that the pilot of the fighter plane ejected from the aircraft just in time and was recovered by helicopter rescue swimmers. They also reported that the pilot sustained minor injuries but was otherwise in stable condition.  Injuries during ejection from aircraft are fairly routine.

Three sailors were reported to have injuries that required them to be evacuated from the carrier and transferred to a medical facility in Manila. The other four personnel were said to be treated onboard. All seven sailors are reported to be in stable conditions.

Accidents are uncommon for the F-35C

This is the first crash aboard a carrier of the naval “C” variant of the F-35 fighter.  The naval version features a strengthened landing gear along with other modifications that allow it to operate off U.S. Navy carriers with just a single engine. In the past, the Navy favored multi-jet engine aircraft for safety reasons.  It is better to lose ‘an’ engine two hundred miles from the carrier at sea than ‘the’ engine.  So far, seven F-35s of all variants have been lost in operational accidents, two by the Air Force, one by the Marine Corps, two by the Navy, one by the Japanese Defense Forces, and a recent loss by the Royal Navy of an F-35B taking off from their carrier, the Queen Elizabeth.