The U.S. Navy on Monday confirmed the legitimacy of the latest video footage leaked on social media last weekend showing the moment an F-35C fighter jet crashed onto the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson before plunging into the South China Sea last month.

According to DailyMail.com and the USNI News, the Department of Defense and Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed that the clip is authentic.

In a prepared statement obtained by Navy Times, Cmdr. Zachary Harrell said: “There is an ongoing investigation into both the crash and the unauthorized release of the shipboard video footage.”

The Navy informed the pilot had recovered after ejecting from the F-35C Lightning II, which was seen bobbing in the water without its canopy. Additionally, seven sailors wounded in the Jan. 24 incident have healed and are in good health.

They added that the aircraft carrier had resumed normal flight operations shortly after.

Last month, a color video footage of the F-35C flying overhead moments before the crash landing was published, but it did not show the moment of impact.

The latest leaked footage clip shows the F-35C banking as it descended rapidly toward the carrier, which was executing a turn at the time of the jet’s approach.

 The landing signal officer (LSO) cried “Power!” to the pilot, instructing him to increase thrust as well as to abort the landing and go around—but the fighter jet struck the deck.

Then the clip shows video footage from another camera pointed in the opposite direction showing the plane bouncing wildly, skidding, and exploding in flames when it plowed into the flight deck of the Vinson.

The jet then crashed into the sea after the pilot ejected, and emergency personnel hurried to put out fires started by flying debris from the aircraft.

The clip was composed of a video shot from the ship’s Island Camera Room and the in-deck Pilot’s Landing Aid Television (PLAT).

According to the Navy, the incident was initially described last month as a “landing mishap” that occurred while USS Carl Vinson “was conducting routine flight operations in the South China Sea.” However, they said the accident remains under investigation.

After China had buzzed Taiwan’s airspace, the U.S. Navy fighter jet was part of a deployment to enhance American presence near the island.

The news outlet Task and Purpose quoted a Navy spokesman last month. “We are taking appropriate planning actions to salvage our aircraft and recover in a timely manner as we have done in the past.”

According to the Chinese-language media outlet Xin Tang Ren, Carl Schuster, former director of operations at the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii, informed that the primary purpose of the U.S. salvage of the F-35C fighter jet was to prevent it from falling into the hands of other countries, adding that the CCP cannot salvage it.

The F-35C is one of the most sophisticated planes globally, a kind of “flying computer” designed to link with other assets, which the U.S. Air Force refers to as “linking sensors to shooters.” This is a technology that China does not yet have. Acquiring it from the fallen plane would give the PLA a significant step-up in its military hardware while undermining the U.S. aircraft carrier battle strategy. Presently, it is U.S. naval superiority, keeping the PLA Navy at bay, which maintains free and open seaways in the region.

According to Schuster, everything on the $100-million crashed F-35C, including steering, engines, airframe, avionics, data links, and radar, was state-of-the-art.

Schuster said that the salvage operation would take about 10 to 20 days, adding that it would be completed around the end of February if all went well. Salvage may cost around $10 million to $20 million. Usually, salvaging a plane from the deep sea at that price isn’t worth it, but he stressed that it was worth it if the purpose of the salvage was to prevent others from getting it and stealing the technology.

Analysts believe that the CCP is definitely interested in this crashed F-35C. Schuster said the CCP wanted it very much, but they were afraid and incapable of doing it after considering the political and technological risks.

The Navy has not released the location of the crash, and Beijing has claimed the great majority of the surrounding waterways.

Despite a 2016 tribunal judgment rejecting Beijing’s claims, the Chinese state claims most of the South China Sea. 

The regime is also notorious for stealing American hardware technology through foreign direct investment in military industries, hacking and cybercrime, using its intelligence agencies, and co-opting Chinese researchers and students abroad to perpetrate espionage.

The theft of American technology by the Chinese regime costs American businesses and the government $300-$600 billion per year, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray, making China the country’s most significant law enforcement danger.

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