US Navy Recovers Fighter Jet That Crashed In South China Sea From Depth Of 12,400 Feet

Not the fighter jet mentioned in the story (Photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr./U.S. Marine Corps via Getty Images)

Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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The U.S. Navy said Thursday it recovered the crashed F-35C Lightning II aircraft from the depths of the South China Sea.

The fighter jet crashed Jan. 24 during “routine flight operations,” according to the U.S. Navy. Since then, it’s been a scramble to remove the jet from the bottom of the ocean before China.

“The task force’s expertise in rapid, scalable command, control, and communications, agile logistics, organic security, and explosive ordnance disposal was the most flexible choice for the fleet commander to respond in a timely manner,” CTF 75 [Task Force 75] Commodore, Capt. Gareth Healy said, according to a U.S. Navy press release.

“Ultimately, this deliberate approach resulted in the correct capabilities conducting recovery operations within 37 days of the incident. Given the unique challenges of this problem and the unique technical capabilities that NAVSEA [Naval Sea Systems Command] delivered, this was an aggressive and achievable timeline,” Healy added.

The fighter jet wreckage was recovered from a depth of around 12,400 feet, according to the U.S. Navy. It took a CTF 75 team and NAVESEA’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving to successfully get the wreckage out of the sea.

At the beginning of February, Chinese salvage ships left port and headed towards the location of the sunken fighter jet, which had not been successfully retrieved yet. One source told the Daily Caller that the Pentagon was “tracking where they are going.” (RELATED: SOURCES: Chinese Salvage Ships Racing Against US For Missing F-35)

U.S. national security experts had raised the alarm about China potentially wanting to acquire the jet shortly after it crashed. Defense consultant Abi Austen told BBC News in January that it is “vitally important the U.S. gets this back,” calling the jet “a flying computer.”

“If they [China] can get into the 35’s networking capabilities, it effectively undermines the whole carrier philosophy,” Austen told BBC News.