The Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed the crash in a statement, saying that a “British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning.”
The pilot was safely rescued and returned to the aircraft carrier and an investigation has been launched into the incident, with the ministry saying it “would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”
A British F35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning.
The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.
— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) November 17, 2021
Earlier in November, the UK took delivery of three F-35 stealth fighters, at a cost of £100 million ($135 million) apiece, bringing the total number in the country’s fleet to 24.
The British government has ordered six more jets, which are set to arrive next year, and seven that are due in 2023, with the aim of having 48 active F-35s by 2025.
HMS Queen Elizabeth – the UK’s flagship aircraft carrier – had eight UK F-35s on board, as well as 10 American F-35s.
It recently returned to Europe after spending more than seven months on its maiden voyage through the South China Sea and into the Indo-Pacific region.
The Ministry of Defence has not yet recovered the plane, which is believed to have crashed into the sea at 10am GMT on Wednesday, and no other aircraft were involved in the incident.
Despite the launch of an investigation, all remaining F-35s and training flights are continuing uninterrupted.