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US Navy uses ROV to recover F-35C from South China Sea

The US 7th Fleet's Task Force 75 (CTF 75) and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) on 2 March successfully retrieved the F-35C Lightning II aircraft that crashed earlier this year in the South China Sea, using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the US Navy (USN) confirmed on 3 March.

Assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2), the F-35C crashed while conducting routine flight operations off the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) in the South China Sea on 24 January.

A team from CTF 75 and the NAVSEA's Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) embarked on the diving support construction vessel (DSCV) Picasso and recovered the wreckage from a depth of approximately 12,400 feet (3,779.5 m), the USN reported.

In a statement, Captain Gareth Healy, CTF 75 commodore, attributed the salvage operation's success to “the task force's expertise in rapid, scalable command, control, and communications; agile logistics; organic security; and explosive ordnance disposal”.

The navy recovered the F-35C wreckage using a CURV-21 ROV, attaching specialised rigging and lift lines to the aircraft, USN officials said. The ship's crane lifting hook was lowered to the seafloor and connected to the rigging, which then lifted the aircraft to the surface and hoisted it onboard Picasso , the service reported.

The navy intends to deliver the wreckage to a nearby military installation, where it will be used to aid in the ongoing investigation and then evaluated for potential transport to the US.

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