Despite ongoing investigations, the Royal Navy has sought help from the U.S. to recover the wreckage of the ill-fated F-35B fighter jet, which recently crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, The Times reported.
Although investigators will be keen to get further information from the pilot who ejected safely from the aircraft and was rescued immediately by a naval helicopter, the Royal Navy now needs to recover the aircraft to safeguard the secrets of the stealth technology that F-35B uses to stay off enemy radar during critical missions.
While the exact location of the crash has not been revealed publicly due to security concerns, it is likely that it has fallen in international waters and is accessible to anybody bold enough to dive deep enough. Russian bases in Syria are deemed close enough and the waters are frequently used by Russian submarines and naval vessels, the Independent reported.
In a report on The Aviationist, the F-35’s technology is described as a system of systems, with no singular feature responsible for its super stealth capabilities. Even if one were to find the wreckage of an aircraft, it would be difficult to reverse-engineer the aircraft in its entirety. Nevertheless, individual components would still be interesting for adversaries to learn more about the aircraft and it is likely that the Royal Navy does not want to give that slim opportunity either.
Unfortunately, the Royal Navy does not have much expertise in the area. According to a Forbes report, Russia and the U.S. developed this capability during the Cold War. The U.S. Navy performed a seabed recovery of thermonuclear weapons as early as 1966 and has rushed to aid its ally and recover technology developed on the U.S. soil.
According to the Independent, the entry point of the aircraft was not very far from the vessel. However, the wings likely allowed the aircraft to glide for a good distance before hitting the bottom of the sea.
The Daily Mail reported that the fighter jet had been located at the bottom of the sea and was being guarded by a team of British and American divers until it could be brought back to the surface. The salvaging operation is highly secretive and involves the use of inflatable bags and miniature submarines. The U.S. also supports the operations with Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, a department under naval force, while an undersea recovery vehicle, CURV-21, which recovered a Black Hawk helicopter off the Japanese coast a couple of years ago, is expected to be part of the operation, the Independent reports.
The incident has also resulted in the cancellation of a scheduled visit by Prince Charles to the HMS Queen Elizabeth. As part of his tour to Egypt, the Prince of Wales was due to visit the aircraft carrier, The Times reported.