A ghostly image showing a British fighter jet 6,500ft beneath the waves has been released in a report into its humiliating aborted aircraft carrier take-off.
The £64million RAF F-35B Lightning II ditched off the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the eastern Mediterranean on November 17, 2021.
A month later, the warplane was retrieved in a secret salvage operation carried out by British, American and Italian crews, to prevent its sophisticated radar and sensors falling into the wrong hands.
A 148-page Ministry of Defense report, published 10 August, details the costly incident which happened after a protective cover got lodged in the warplane’s engine intake. Thankfully, the pilot was able to eject and has since returned to flying.
The sonar picture of the plane upside on the sea floor forms part of the partly redacted report detailing the timeline and investigation into the incident.
This ghostly image shows a £64m British fighter jet at the bottom of the sea. It has been released in a report into its humiliating aborted aircraft carrier take-off in November 2021
The RAF F-35B Lightning II ditched off the HMS Queen Elizabeth in the eastern Mediterranean on November 17, 2021
The jet suffered a malfunction while accelerating up the ramp of the flight deck before the pilot ejected when the plane reached the top
The jet is seen disappearing over the edge of the aircraft carrier and the pilot’s parachute floats into view in leaked footage of the crash
The report, titled ‘Service Inquiry into the loss of F-35B Lightning ZM152 (BK-18) of 617 Squadron RAF’, explains: ‘The Ship was operating in the eastern Mediterranean, off the north coast of Egypt.
‘As the aircraft left the end of the flight deck ramp, the pilot ejected and landed back on the deck. The aircraft impacted the sea and subsequently sank. The pilot suffered only minor injuries and has since returned to flying.’
The aircraft was able to be salvaged and returned to the UK.
The report details: ‘After falling into the sea, BK-18 floated beside the ship for a short period before subsequently sinking.
‘It was later discovered intact, inverted on the seabed, at a depth of 2,000m, with a few minor parts such as the ejection seat detached but close to the airframe.
‘A salvage operation recovered the aircraft, and all the detached items, and then transported them back to the UK.’
A picture in the report shows the jet, BK-18, on November 16 2021 (a day before the incident) with an arrow pointing to the left blank intake cover just visible in the intake
The report shows a picture of the left intake blank, the cause of the crash, recovered from the crash site
The report shows BK-18 launching from the HMS Queen Elizabeth on November 14, 2021
The report concludes that the left intake blank, a red cover designed to protect the engine from foreign objects prior to flight, had not been removed and was consequently sucked into the engine causing loss of take-off power.
The F-35B reached the ski-jump take-off point, but was not producing enough thrust to take to the skies. It dipped off the end of the ramp and plunged into the sea.
The report says: ‘One of the cameras showed the aircraft floating on the surface, semi-submerged up to the canopy, but with the wings, tail, lift fan and auxiliary doors above water level.
‘Several witnesses saw a ‘large red object’ pushed up and out of the auxiliary intake on top of the aircraft. The sea boat was sent to recover the debris which was subsequently identified as BK-18’s left intake blank.’
The document confirms the pilot escaped serious harm.
It reads: ‘The FDO (Flight Deck Officer) was first to arrive at the pilot’s location. Other than some the pilot appeared unharmed, fully conscious and in good spirits. The pilot was keen to stand up, declaring that they were fine. The FDO aided the pilot to their feet and walked with them back to the FDO’s office in the aft island.’
Leaked footage of the incident was spread online, prompting an internal investigation with a sailor ending up arrested for sharing the confidential material.
The first image of the F35 that toppled into the Mediterranean Sea during a failed takeoff from HMS Queen Elizabeth emerged (pictured) in early 2022 after the warplane was retrieved in a secret salvage operation
While it did not reveal any operationally sensitive material, the video is said to have angered naval chiefs at the time, who flew the arrested sailor back to the UK.
Lockheed Martin says the F-35 ‘is the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft in the world, giving pilots an advantage against any adversary and enabling them to execute their mission and come home safe.’
But the stealth fighter has been involved in a series of high-profile crashes and incidents in recent years.
A month prior to the incident, a South Korean pilot was forced to make an emergency ‘belly landing’ in an F-35A after suffering a malfunction in the air.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.