The U.S. Navy is dispatching a salvage ship and crew to help recover the U.K's F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter that crashed in the Mediterranean last week. This comes amid fears that Russia might get its hands on the wreck of the jet to glean insights into its cutting-edge technology.
Though a U.K. government spokesperson confirmed that the U.S. salvage team is on the mission, the Naval Sea Systems Command has not issued any statements in this regard, reported USNI.
Earlier, media reports had mentioned how the U.K. Ministry of Defence approached the U.S. for assistance since it has salvage equipment located in Spain, closest to the scene of the incident.
The report, quoting unnamed sources, said the U.K. hopes that the Towed Pinger Locator 25 (TPL-25) owned by the U.S. can help trace the jet's emergency beacon. The jet can then be brought to the surface using a combination of remote-controlled undersea vehicles and inflatable bags.
After recovery, the F-35B will likely be loaded onboard a salvage vessel and brought to the shore, perhaps to Cyprus, which houses a major RAF airbase.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Italy is also assisting with the mission. Two days ago, an Italian F35 jet made a vertical landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth. This is also the first time that three nations have flown jets from the same aircraft carrier.
The U.K., U.S., and Nato had offered reassurances that Russia will not get hold of the downed F-35 from the seabed. "We'll get it first, I promise you," Brigadier General Simon Doran, a top-ranking U.S. officer onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, was quoted by the AFP.
"We're not concerned at all about recovering it," NATO's Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tim Radford, told journalists on board the vessel in the Mediterranean. "We're not worried because we are working through the issue at the moment. There was obviously a concern when the plane went down. The pilot is safe which is the most important thing."
Britain had said the Russians had been playing "close attention" to HMS Queen Elizabeth, which carried the jet before it went down.
The F-35B plane, which took off from the aircraft carrier, crashed into the sea during a routine operation in the Mediterranean last Wednesday. The pilots ejected safely.
F-35Bs are said to be the most advanced and expensive jets. They cost almost £100m and can land vertically and combine radar-evading stealth technology with supersonic speeds.