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U.S. Navy says it will recover F-35 fighter jet that crashed in South China Sea

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U.S. Navy says it will recover F-35 fighter jet that crashed in South China Sea
The F-35, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is the U.S. military's most technologically advanced fighter jet and is used by three American military branches -- the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. File Photo by Alex R. Lloyd/U.S. Air Force

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy said it began plans Wednesday to recover and salvage an F-35 fighter jet that crashed on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson early this week in the South China Sea.

The crash on Monday injured multiple sailors after the sophisticated F-35C aircraft had conducted routine flight operations in the South China Sea. The pilot safely ejected and was in stable condition after being recovered by a military helicopter.

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The Navy said the $100 million airplane fell off the massive aircraft carrier into the South China Sea after the crash. Damage to the carrier was superficial and has already continued regular operations.

"The U.S. Navy is making recovery operations arrangements for the F-35C aircraft involved in the mishap," said Brenda Way, spokeswoman for the Navy's Pacific Fleet, according to ABC News.

The Navy said the $100 million fighter fell off the massive aircraft carrier into the South China Sea after the crash. Damage to the carrier was superficial and has already continued regular operations. File Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Isaiah Williams/U.S. Navy

The Navy has not detailed how it intends to raise the fighter jet off the sea floor. It could become complicated, however, as China claims territorial control over much of the sea and some experts fear that Beijing's military may try to recover the plane first.

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U.S. officials insist that most of the South China Sea is an open international waterway.

"China will try to locate and survey it thoroughly using submarines and one of its deep-diving submersibles," Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii, told CNN.

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"Salvaging the plane with commercial and coast guard assets will enable Beijing to claim it is recovering a potential environmental hazard or foreign military equipment from its territorial waters."

The F-35, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is the U.S. military's most technologically advanced fighter jet and is used by three American military branches -- the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

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