A video leaked online shows the harrowing crash of a F-35C Lightning II jet aboard the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson last month.
The 51-second video shows the jet’s rear erupting into flames as it hits the deck and slides the length of the carrier before dropping into the South China Sea at about 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 24.
Someone appears to scream “wave off!” several times before the jet impacts, and deck crew can be seen running about after the jet fell into the water.
Naval Air Forces officials confirmed “that there has been an unauthorized release of video footage from flight deck cameras” aboard Vinson.
“There is an ongoing investigation into both the crash and the unauthorized release of the shipboard video footage,” Cmdr. Zachary Harrell said in a statement.
The video appears to show the pilot ejecting as the jet skids across the carrier, though Navy officials have not confirmed when the pilot ejected.
That pilot was one of seven sailors injured in the Jan. 24 mishap, which was the fifth major aviation mishap to befall the carrier’s air wing in the past few months.
The pilot and two other sailors were evacuated to a hospital in the Philippines, while the other injured crew were treated onboard.
While the Navy has not announced its plans to salvage the $100 million jet, maritime salvage warnings for a northern portion of the South China Sea have been issued in recent weeks, and the sea service is expected to raise the fallen jet, which is full of technology that would be of high interest to Beijing.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.