By Tom Squitieri
Red Snow News
WASHINGTON — The U.S.Navy has yet to pinpoint the exact location and depth of the F-35 that was involved in the January 24 accident, and thus, by extension, has not been able to secure that area in the South China Sea.
The Pentagon has said it is not worried about China getting to the stealth aircraft first and that the plane will eventually be recovered. Others, speaking on background, suggest the inability to precisely locate the wreckage gives China the chance to snare some parts of the plane, with even just small pieces being about to provide valuable information about the F-35, such as its skin, stealth sensors, and data processing.
“The aircraft has not been recovered yet and arrangements for recovery operations are still ongoing,” a defense official said.
The Pentagon knows where the plane went into the water. It does not know how deep it may be and it has shifted from the entry point, the official said.
The aircraft was operating on the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea. Experts have theorized the crash site is about 320 miles from Manila, Philippines, and perhaps roughly 13,000 feet below the surface of the ocean.
That would put the wreckage closer to the Philippines than to China.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said Monday that the Navy is “on-site and they’re working through this in real-time.
“It’s not about confidence that the Chinese will or won’t do anything. It is our property,” Kirby said. “It is not uncommon for us to recover our property when it is lost at sea. And we are making every effort to do that in this case. And if it can be done I’m confident that the United States will be — the United States Navy will be able to get it — get it done.”
The Navy’s 7th fleet has one salvage ship based in Hawaii, the USNS Salvor. Some reports indicate it would take 10 days for it to reach the location. Also needed would be a submersible vessel or an unmanned underwater vehicle to precisely locate the wreckage and determine the extent of the damage.
After that, flotation material to lift the plane will be attached to the wreckage. If the recovery proceeds smoothly, it could take about a week to attach materials and prepare the plane before the lift begins.
The rush to secure and rescue the F-35 remains is reminiscent of a similar effort by the United Kingdom last November. Then, London raced to recover one of its F-35s that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea before the Russians could get to it. Britain reportedly won that race.