F-35C Accident Aboard Carrier In South China Sea Forces Pilot To Eject, Injures Seven Sailors (Updated)

The fate of the F-35C, which was involved in a “landing mishap” while operating from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, is unclear.

byJoseph Trevithick|
F-35C photo


An F-35C Joint Strike Fighter was involved in a mishap today while landing aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, which is currently operating in the South China Sea. The pilot ejected from the aircraft and is in a stable condition, while seven other sailors aboard the ship were injured as a result of the accident. The fate of the aircraft is uncertain.


was the first to report on this incident, citing a U.S. Navy release. That release also said that of the seven injured sailors, four received treatment aboard the Carl Vinson, while three were evacuated to a medical facility in Manila in the Philippines. Three of the injured individuals onboard the carrier have already been released, while the status of the fourth is unclear. All three personnel in the Philippines are presently in stable condition.

An F-35C Joint Strike Fighter on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Jan. 22, 2022., USN

The full release, which has since been posted online by the Navy's Pacific Fleet, at the time of writing is as follows:

An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, had a landing mishap on deck while USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) was conducting routine flight operations in the South China Sea, Jan. 24, 2022. The pilot safely ejected from the aircraft and was recovered via U.S. military helicopter. The pilot is in stable condition. There were seven total Sailors injured; three Sailors required MEDEVAC to a medical treatment facility in Manila, Philippines, and four were treated by on-board medical personnel. All three MEDEVACs are assessed as stable. Of the four Sailors treated by on-board medical, three have been released. Additional details and the cause of the inflight mishap is under investigation.

8:33 a.m. - Updated to reflect that all three MEDEVACed Sailors are in stable condition.

The Navy has not yet divulged any details on how the accident occurred or what happened to the F-35C in question, but an investigation into the mishap is already underway. In addition, the service has only said so far that this jet was assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two. However, there is only one squadron presently with that wing that is flying these aircraft, Strike Fighter Squadron 147 (VFA-147), the “Argonauts."

This is only the second major mishap involving an F-35 of any kind operating from an aircraft carrier. A British F-35B Joint Strike Fighter plunged into the Mediterranean Sea last November during a failed takeoff attempt from the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. The pilot successfully ejected in that incident and the aircraft was subsequently recovered.

This new Navy mishap comes amid the debut operational deployment of Navy F-35Cs aboard the Carl Vinson. U.S. Marine Corps F-35Cs are presently on their first operational deployment, as well, embarked on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, which is also operating in the South China Sea. 

The War Zone has already reached out to the Navy for more information. We will continue to update this story as more details become available.

Update 5:15 PM EST:

The U.S. Navy has declined to confirm or deny whether the F-35C involved in today's mishap fell into the South China Sea as a result or if it remained onboard the USS Carl Vinson. The service has yet to provide any other additional details about the incident.

"The status of the aircraft is currently under investigation as are the factors involved in the mishap," Brenda Way, a spokesperson for the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told The War Zone.

Contact the author: joe@thedrive.com