According to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), a British F35 pilot flying from the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier had to evacuate during a routine exercise over the Mediterranean.
The pilot was rescued, but the £100 million jet fell into the water during the event, which occurred about 10 a.m. in the United Kingdom. According to defense officials, no additional vessels or planes were engaged.
“A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during normal flight operations in the Mediterranean this morning,” a Ministry of Defense spokeswoman said. “At this time, it would be improper to say further because the pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an inquiry has commenced.”
After a long tour that took it from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific and back, HMS Queen Elizabeth is returning to the United Kingdom. Before today, eight British and ten American F35Bs, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, were deployed onboard.
Although there have been a few earlier incidents involving the fighter planes, this is the first one involving an RAF F35B. The most recent crash, again involving an F35B, occurred in September 2018, when the pilot, a US Marine, was forced to eject in South Carolina. The failure was attributed to faulty engine tubes.
HMS Queen Elizabeth jets have previously taken part in strikes against Islamic State remnants in Iraq and Syria.
By 2025, the United Kingdom has pledged to acquire 48 F35B fighter jets from the United States for £6 billion.