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Fri, Mar 04, 2022

Navy Completes F-35 Recovery

Successful Salvage Operation Lets Intel Breathe Easy Once Again

The F-35 has gone for a few too many swims over the past year, said the commander in charge of salvaging the most recently submerged fighter. 

Navy Captain Gareth Healy oversaw the operation to recover an F-35C Lightning II from the icy depths, dredging it up from 12,400 feet. A delicate combination of remotely piloted diving equipment and a diving construction crane allowed the aircraft to be pulled up and appear almost entirely intact, less some unspecified damage. The remains of the plane were carefully obscured below a protective covering, likely hoping to hide some of the lesser-known aspects of the Lightning's design that may peek out from underneath damaged skin. 

Having the plane back in American hands allows them to breathe easy - until the next one goes for a swim, at least. The 103-million-dollar aircraft is the subject of an investigation to explore just what brought it to the seafloor, to begin with, and it's not the only event involving the type. Months ago, a British Lightning suffered an aborted carrier launch that gently lobbed it into the deep, sparking an urgent, worried rush to recover the wreck before peer states could take it for themselves and parse its arcane (i.e. expensive) secrets.

The crashes have not been good news for the navy, as it struggled to tamp down on the seaman's natural inclination to gossip about the incident. So far, at least 5 sailors have been charged for leaks of the unapproved video releases. It seems operations were tighter for the recovery, as the only available imagery contains little of special interest aside from the tarp-covered plane. 

Unlike the Royal Navy Lightning, however, this one sank into far deeper waters, rendering a recovery operation a far more labor-intensive prospect.“Ultimately, this deliberate approach resulted in the correct capabilities of conducting recovery operations within 37 days of the incident. Given the unique challenges of this problem and the unique technical capabilities that NAVSEA delivered, this was an aggressive and achievable timeline," said Healy.



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