USS Carl Vinson

12,400 Feet Down: Deep-Sea Salvagers Recover USS Carl Vinson's Crashed F-35C Stealth Jet

The F-35C Lightning II crashed Jan. 24 as it attempted a landing on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier

A leaked photo of an F-35C Lightning II that crash attempting to land on USS Carl Vinson Jan. 24 in the South China Sea, verified by the U.S. Navy.

A $100 million plane that came to rest more than 12,000 below the surface of the South China Sea after it crashed in January during an attempted landing has been recovered by the U.S. Navy, officials said.

The F-35C Lightning II — the most advanced fighter jet on the planet, according to some experts — crashed Jan. 24 as it attempted a landing on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, which is seaported in Coronado. The pilot and six sailors were injured in the incident.

The recovered aircraft under wraps aboard the Picasso. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

The F-35C was more than two miles down when a remotely operated vehicle was used to attach rigging and lines to it so a team from the 7th Fleet’s Task Force 75 and the Naval Sea Systems Command's supervisor of salvage and diving could raise it to the surface, where the Picasso, a diving support construction vehicle, was waiting.

The Picasso is now transporting the plane to a "nearby military installation to aid in the ongoing investigation and evaluated for potential transport to the United States," according to a news release issued Thursday.

Leaked video of crash showed fire engulfing the tail of the stealth jet as it slid the length of the carrier, then fell over the edge and splashed into the sea. Sailors were seen rushing toward the end of the flight deck while others sprayed the deck down with hoses.

On the day of the crash, the Navy said the pilot and two sailors were flown off the ship to a hospital in Manila, Philippines. Hours later, Navy spokesperson Lt. Mark Langford told NBC 7 all three sailors were in stable condition.

The other four injured sailors were treated on the ship, Langford said.

Five sailors are facing charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for their alleged roles in the leak of footage showing the plane crash.

The USS Carl Vinson returned to local waters on Valentine's Day after an eight-month deployment.

The aircraft carrier returned to San Diego on Feb. 14 after an eight-month deployment.
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