Royal Navy: Cheap rain cover thought to be responsible for crash of F-35 from HMS Queen Elizabeth
A STATE-of-the-art stealth jet plunged into the sea because a cheap plastic rain cover had been left on, reports have claimed.
Investigators fear the cover was sucked into the £100m F-35’s engine, causing the pilot to eject upon take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean.
The jet crashed into the sea close to the ship on November 17, shortly after 10am. The pilot was safely rescued and was taken to hospital for a routine medical check-up in Greece.
Sailors saw a red cover floating in the water after the jet crashed, according to The Sun newspaper.
One source told the newspaper: ‘They knew almost right away. The covers and engine blanks are supposed to be removed before flight.’
No other F-35s were grounded following the crash and the Ministry of Defence said it was investigating.
A military source told The News the incident sounded like a ‘freak accident’.
‘Obviously this sort of thing can happen – it really shouldn’t. But it sounds more like human error than anything else,’ the source added.
Efforts are still ongoing to recover the crashed jet.
A combined salvage team, made up of American and British personnel, are trying to secure the jet.
However, the military is being urged to step up the speed of the recovery by senior Tory MPs who have warned that it is vulnerable to adversaries such as Russia and China while it remains on the seabed.
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, said the military must ‘to move far more swiftly to recover such sensitive assets in the future’.
He said: ‘Our competitors will be watching and realising themselves how vulnerable we are in offering an opportunity - a full week - to locate and remove such a prized asset.’
Mr Ellwood added that each day the recovery of the jet was delayed, it ‘increases the possibility of the F-35, with all its highly classified data and sensors, falling into foreign hands’.
‘There is a strong argument to ensure the carrier is equipped with its own recovery capabilities to expedite the extraction of any downed F-35 from the sea bed,’ he added.
‘Russia has the maritime capability to search, detect and recover the F-35, potentially in segments removing the classified sections of the aircraft.’
HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently on her way home to Portsmouth.