Video Video footage has emerged of a British F-35B fighter jet falling off the front of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after a botched takeoff.

The leaked clip, seemingly from a CCTV camera on the carrier’s bridge, shows the Lockheed Martin-made stealth aircraft slowly trundling down the deck before tipping over the ski-jump ramp on her bows.

As the £100m RAF jet nosed over, the pilot ejected – only for his parachute to snag on the carrier’s bows as he descended back towards the ship.

Had he gone underneath the 65,000-tonne Queen Elizabeth or been caught in one of her two 33-tonne, 6.7m-diameter propellers [PDF], he may not have survived.

A Ministry of Defence spokesbeing said in a prepared statement: “We are aware of a video circulating online. It is too soon to comment on the potential causes of this incident.”

The F-35 crash took place a couple of weeks ago as the carrier taskforce sailed through the eastern Mediterranean, heading back towards Britain after touring the Pacific and the South China Sea – making her the first British capital ship to enter the disputed ocean since HMS Albion in 2018.

The carrier was hosting 10 US Marine Corps F-35Bs as well as eight British jets from 617 Squadron RAF, though the crashed aircraft was British. The US squadron has since left the carrier.

Speculation abounded that the F-35B crashed because a protective cover had mistakenly been left in place. Flying operations continued despite the accident, though the BBC reported that a high priority operation was under way to recover the crashed jet before a hostile nation such as Russia could fish it out of the deep.

“The recovery efforts are ongoing and the Defence Accident Investigation Branch will report back their preliminary findings in due course,” said the MoD. Such investigations normally take 18 months before their findings are made public. ®

Bootnote

The (un)lucky pilot of the F-35 qualifies for membership of ejection seat maker Martin Baker’s Ejection Tie Club, an exclusive organisation reserved for those who’ve used its products to escape from a crashing aeroplane. The British company’s seats have saved around 7,500 lives worldwide at the time of writing.