Investigation launched after British f-35 flying from Royal Navy flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth crashes in the Mediterranean
A BRITISH stealth jet, operating with HMS Queen Elizabeth, has crashed in the Mediterranean.
The incident is understood to have taken place at about 10am this morning.
The news was announced this afternoon by the Ministry of Defence’s official press account on Twitter.
In a statement, the MoD said: ‘A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning.
‘The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.’
The F-35B is one of eight British stealth jets embarked on the £3.2bn aircraft carrier, from 617 Squadron of the RAF – known as the ‘Dambusters’ for their missions during the Second World War.
They are supported by a further 10 jets from the US Marine Corps.
It’s understood the pilot was rescued by a Merlin helicopter and flown back to HMS Queen Elizabeth.
As previously reported, the jets from the 65,000-tonne warship previously participated in strikes against the remnants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, was shocked to hear of today’s emergency.
The former defence secretary said: ‘The pilot is safe and I was very relieved to hear that. It is too early to say more and we must wait for the investigation to conclude.’
Portsmouth South MP and shadow armed forces minister Stephen Morgan added: ‘I am pleased to hear the pilot was able to eject and return safely to the carrier.
‘We now wait to hear the results of the investigation into this crash. With no other aircraft involved it is likely to focus on technical or human error.
‘The carrier strike group is the pride of Portsmouth and the Royal Navy.’
HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently on her way home to Portsmouth following her maiden deployment, which included exercises with the Indian military.
It was part of the carrier strike group’s deployment to the Indo-Pacific amid heightened tensions with China in the region.
The UK has plans to eventually have 138 F-35Bs, with 48 of those by 2025.
The 138 figure was clarified last year by Sir Stephen Lovegrove as the ‘upper limit’ of how many would be bought.
Britain currently owns 24 of the state-of-the-art aircraft with 21 based domestically and three stationed in the US.
Sir Stephen Lovegrove added he expects ‘more than 48’ will eventually be purchased.
The overall programme is the most expensive weapons system in military history. An estimated cost from 2015 put the price at £78m per jet, without engine or electronics.
For everything included, the F-35B jets come in at a grand total of £190m.
Lockheed Martin, which is the lead defence firm responsible for building the F-35B, told The News the company would support the MoD’s investigation.
A spokeswoman said: ‘We are aware of the incident with the F-35B from HMS Queen Elizabeth and are thankful to hear that the pilot ejected successfully and has returned safely to the ship. We are standing by to support the Ministry of Defence as needed.’