A British F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter of the new Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (RO8), operating in a routine joint exercise with the United States, has crashed into the eastern Mediterranean Sea, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The pilot was able to eject from the stricken aircraft and was picked up and returned safely to the carrier.

“A British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning,” read the MoD statement.

A source from the Royal Navy said the accident occurred shortly after the pilot took off from the carrier.

“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 accident occurred at 10:00 a.m. London time. No other aircraft were involved. 

The Royal Navy’s next priority is the recovery of the wreckage to ensure that the F-35B doesn’t end up in the hands of a hostile power such as Russia or China.

The F-35B is a short-take-off and the vertical-landing jet with an estimated cost of $134 million. It was one of eight British aircraft deployed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth as it returned from a long deployment to the Pacific.

The aircraft was one of Britain’s 24 F-35s. The country has ordered 24 more and has pledged to purchase 138 in total, although that number is likely to be reduced due to budgetary constraints.