An extraordinary video which appears to show a British Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II crashing into the Mediterranean during take-off, has been circulated on social media.
Providing it is authentic, the footage shows the £100m jet in STOVL (short take off and vertical landing) configuration with the lift fan door open and engine nozzle pointing downwards attempting to take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth’s (R08) ski jump ramp on November 17.
In a statement to Key.Aero, an MOD spokesperson said: "We are aware of a video circulating online. It is too soon to comment on the potential causes of this incident. The recovery efforts are ongoing and the Defence Accident Investigation Branch will report back their preliminary findings in due course."
It seems that during the video, the speed of the F-35B is a lot less than required for a normal take-off, resulting in the aircraft failing to get airborne and simply rolling off the edge of the ski ramp.
The footage appears to match earlier claims that the pilot could not gain enough power for liftoff, before attempting to abort the departure and running out of deck space.
As the multi-million-pound jet topples into the sea just feet in front of the 65,000-tonne ship, the pilot can be seen ejecting from the aircraft before it disappears out of sight. A parachute then emerges and sailors of the UK CSG21 run towards the edge of the ship’s flight deck.
Based on the video shared on social media, the footage appears to have been recorded from the ship’s surveillance camera systems by a smartphone. The Visual Surveillance System onboard the carrier is usually used to record day-to-day operations on the flight deck as well as in any investigation.
The MOD confirmed the crash on November 17 and stated that the pilot was recovered safely and attempts to retrieve the F-35B from the sea are ongoing.
The cause of the crash is yet to be officially confirmed, although according to an exclusive report by The Sun newspaper on November 23, the incident was due to the failure of removal of a “cheap plastic rain cover” which was left on for the take-off.
The official investigation is ongoing.