The US Navy used a Chinese-built ship to haul a crashed F-35 stealth jet out of the South China Sea
Published: 7:24pm, 7 Mar, 2022
US sailors transport equipment onto the US Navy-contracted diving support vessel (DSCV) Picasso to support recovery of the F-35C that crashed in the South China Sea, January 24, 2022. US Navy/MCS1 Billy Ho
- The US Navy brought a crashed F-35 to the surface using a specialist vessel constructed by a Chinese state firm.
- The use of the maritime technology shows the need for US-China cooperation, one analyst says.
A Chinese-made ship was at the centre of the US Navy's salvage operation last week to recover the wreck of an F-35C fighter jet from the South China Sea, according to Chinese media.
Personnel pulled the wreckage of the fighter jet from 3,780 metres (12,400 feet) below the surface on Wednesday using lift lines from the crane of the diving support construction vessel (DSCV) Picasso, the US Seventh Fleet said last week.
The Picasso, owned and run by Ultra Deep Solutions (UDS), a Singapore-based deep diving heavy construction vessel operator, was built by China Merchants Heavy Industries, one of China's top three state-owned shipbuilders. The DSCVs are a type of specialised vessel for deep water salvage, installation, inspection and repair.
The Picasso is one of the most advanced in service and is equipped with an advanced remotely operated vehicle known as the Curv-21, which can dive to more than 3,000 metres.
In last week's salvage operation for the F-35C Lightning II, the Curv-21 attached special rigging and lift lines to the aircraft. Then the crane's lifting hook was lowered to the sea floor and connected to the rigging, and the aircraft was hoisted to the surface aboard the Picasso, according to the Seventh Fleet.
Wreckage of a sunken F-35 is recovered from the South China Sea. US Navy
Chinese-made DSCVs have been used before to recover jets from the sea floor. In 2019, an F-35A from the Japan Air Self-Defence Force crashed into the Pacific Ocean, and the Van Gogh, another DSCV from the Singaporean company, was involved in the salvage operation.
State-run Chinese tabloid Global Times reported on Friday that the Van Gogh was also made by CMHI and one of five Chinese-made vessels operated by UDS.
Chinese military analyst Song Zhongping said China was a leader in shipbuilding, particularly in specialist vessels, and it was no surprise that ships made in the country were involved in the operation. "This shows the need for cooperation between the US and China," he said.
The F-35C went down in the South China Sea on January 24 after a "landing mishap" during routine flight operations on the USS Carl Vinson. Seven sailors were injured in the incident but the pilot ejected to safety and was rescued by helicopter.
The wreckage was located in a northern portion of the South China Sea, roughly 300 km (185 miles) west of the Philippines and 565 km east of Woody Island in the Paracels, one of China's major military bases in the disputed waters.
The sensitive location of the crash raised speculation that the Chinese military could try to recover the wreckage.
The Seventh Fleet began the salvage operation several days after the crash and said the effort showed the US Navy's commitment to its assets, and a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The Picasso, one of the most advanced diving support construction vessels in service, was built by one of China's top three state-owned shipbuilders.