Contributed by Joe Montero
Fearing that the Chinese might get to it first and learn secrets and access rare technology, Washington is in a mad search to find it first.
The F35-C Lightning II combat jet crashed while trying to land on the deck of American aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, leaving seven sailors injured.
Monday’s crash is the second involving an F-35. An F-35 from Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth crashed into the Mediterranean Sea in November.
Pictures and video footage have emerged showing the moments before and after the crash.
The South China Sea is disputed territory, and the gateway to the Indian and Pacific Oceans for China.
Passing through it is the world’s busiest shipping route, passing through there to the strategic Strait of Malacca, between Malaysia and Indonesia. The South China Sea is also a key area of United Sates led military buildup in sight of the Chinese mainland and an important cog in Washington’s Indian and Pacific Ocean dominance strategy.
This has made the South China Sea a major global flashpoint.
Carl Shuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command, told CNN: “China will try to locate and survey it thoroughly using submarines and one of its deep diving submersibles.
“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.”
Mr Shuster said it would take between five to ten days for US officials to salvage the jet. Recovery would then take around 120 days.
Two American carrier strike groups with more than 14,000 sailors and marines are currently conducting exercises in the South China Sea, which the military says is to demonstrate the “US Indo-Pacific Command Joint Force’s ability to deliver a powerful maritime force.”
For their part, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said after the crash that they have “no interests” in the US plane and advised that the American military “contribute more to regional peace and stability, rather than flexing force at every turn.”