The Navy has revealed that five sailors – an ensign and four chief petty officers – have been charged with Uniform Code of Military Justice violations over their alleged part in the leak of video footage from last month’s F-35C Lightning II crash aboard the USS Carl Vinson.
Naval Air Forces spokesman Cmdr. Zach Harrell told Military.com in an emailed statement that an ensign, as well as a senior chief and three chief petty officers, have all been charged under Article 92 of the military’s code of justice. Article 92 is failure to obey a lawful order.
"The investigation into the unauthorized release of the shipboard video footage has concluded,” he added.
USNI News was the first outlet to report the charges.
The video was the third leak of material from this particular crash. A photo of an F-35C jet floating in the water and then a short video of the plane coming in for its landing shot from the back of the ship surfaced on social media days after the crash on Jan. 24.
The video tied to the charges, which was first posted online on Feb. 6, appeared to have been shot with a mobile phone and shows roughly one minute's worth of crash footage from the carrier’s Pilot’s Landing Aid Television (PLAT) on a desktop computer split over two clips. In the footage, an F-35 fighter can be seen approaching the deck of the carrier before striking the deck and proceeding to skid along its belly and side.
A landing signal officer can be heard shouting, "Wave off, wave off" -- an order to abort the landing attempt -- just before the plane strikes the flight deck. As the plane skids along the entire flight deck of the carrier, its belly engulfed in flames, it appears the pilot ejects a few seconds before the plane slides overboard.
Harrell said that the Navy is not releasing the names of the sailors charged.
According to Harrell, the sailors in the other two leaks will not be charged. “That was the determination made by the commanding officer of the USS Carl Vinson based upon the findings of the respective investigations,” he explained.
The Navy has said that it is "making recovery operations arrangements" for the downed jet, but it has released no further details.
The episode was the fifth major incident aboard the Carl Vinson in two months while the ship was deployed in the South China Sea. It returned from its deployment on Monday.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.