F-35 Crash Off Carl Vinson Is the Ship's 5th Major Mishap in 2 Months

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the Philippine Sea
Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), front, and Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), transit the Philippine Sea while escorted by an MH-60S Sea Hawk, assigned to the “Black Knights” Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, Jan. 22, 2022. (Larissa T. Dougherty/U.S. Navy)

An F-35C Lightning II fighter suffered "a landing mishap" on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea on Monday. It left seven sailors injured while the pilot safely ejected and was later recovered, the Navy confirmed, marking the fifth major mishap aboard the deployed carrier since late November.

Between Nov. 22 and Tuesday, Carrier Air Wing 2 reported four other major incidents involving aircraft. Naval Safety Center data shows that the first incident, which occurred Nov. 22, was an in-flight engine fire aboard an F/A-18E Super Hornet that was able to land successfully.

Two days later, a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter "unexpectedly" lost its sonar dipping equipment while conducting a training flight. The third incident happened Nov. 29 and involved another F/A-18E Super Hornet. That time, an issue with the plane's left engine forced its pilot to shut it down and land using the other, good engine. Finally, on Dec. 31, a CMV-22B had an engine fire while on the Carl Vinson's deck.

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None of the other four incidents resulted in any injuries or fatalities.

When asked about the string of mishaps, Navy spokesman Lt. Nicholas Lingo said, "All five incidents remain under investigation, and we cannot speak to any pattern until the investigation concludes."

Lingo said that the F-35, which is assigned to Carrier Air Wing 2, suffered its mishap Monday while the Carl Vinson was conducting routine flight operations in the South China Sea. He added that "additional details and the cause of the in-flight mishap is under investigation."

According to the Navy, the pilot was rescued by a U.S. military helicopter and is in stable condition. Of the seven injured sailors, three required medevac to a medical treatment facility in Manila, Philippines, and four were treated aboard the aircraft carrier. Lingo said that two of the evacuated sailors are in stable condition; one is in critical condition. One sailor is still being treated aboard the carrier; the other three have been released, he added.

The incidents come at a time when the Vinson is participating in dual-carrier operations, along with the USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, that began Sunday. This is the latest of several major exercises that the carrier and its embarked air wing have participated in since arriving in the Pacific region in early September. According to Navy press releases, the strike group has joined "MALABAR 2021; MPX 2021; and several multi-carrier, multi-nation operations, including multiple allied carrier strike group operations in the Philippine Sea."

The deployment is also the first time the new F-35 stealth fighter has been deployed aboard a carrier in what the Navy has dubbed "the air wing of the future."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at konstantin.toropin@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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