Royal Navy: Prince Charles cancels visit to HMS Queen Elizabeth as salvage team work to find crashed F-35
THE Prince of Wales’s visit to the Royal Navy’s flagship has been cancelled just a few days after an F-35B jet from the warship crashed in the Mediterranean.
Charles was due to tour HMS Queen Elizabeth during the final day of his tour of Egypt, but a few hours before the event his office Clarence House announced the visit would not take place.
The news comes amid a joint British and American operation to recover the stealth jet, which slammed into the sea on Wednesday.
The pilot flying the F-35, estimated to be worth around £100m, ejected from the aircraft before it crashed into the sea and was later rescued by a helicopter. They suffered no serious injuries.
Former soldier Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons defence select committee, said he had ‘many questions’ about the crash.
A Clarence House spokesman today said: ‘For operational reasons, the visit to HMS Queen Elizabeth has been cancelled.’
During the visit, Charles was due to meet Commodore Steve Moorhouse, commander of the Carrier Strike Group, and Captain Ian Feasey, commanding officer of Portsmouth-based HMS Queen Elizabeth.
He was also scheduled to watch the launch of a F35 jet from the flight deck before meeting some of the ship’s company including US Navy and Marines.
Jets from the vessel previously participated in strikes against the remnants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The F-35 which crashed was part of the RAF’s renowned 617 Squadron, which has been embarked on Queen Elizabeth since she left Portsmouth in May.
It’s understood the jet crashed not far from the aircraft carrier.
However, the aircraft’s wings would have made it glide underwater for a distance before sinking to the bottom, say defence officials, making locating it a complex process.
The immediate focus would be to recover the most sensitive equipment from the aircraft, which is packed with an array of high-tech sensors.
The weapons and computer systems onboard would be of great value to adversaries, and the sea lanes where the crash happened are frequently used by Russian submarines and surface vessels.
Any attempts by a non-allied state to get to the wreckage will be tracked and ‘appropriate action taken’, military sources have said, while stressing that a stand-off would be an unlikely scenario.
The Independent reports an American unit based in Spain specialising in undersea salvage will be part of the recovery mission alongside UK counterparts.
Meanwhile, an investigation into the how the crash happened has been launched.
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed there are no immediate plans to ground the F-35B fleet while the probe is carried out.
HMS Queen Elizabeth had been on the final leg of her journey back to Portsmouth following her maiden mission to the Far East.
The 65,000-tonne warship is expected to return home in a matter of weeks.