Find The Birdie

The US Navy could not tolerate having the British get ahead in the “flinging F-35s overboard” TikTok fad that appears to be emerging, so they did one too. It’s a dangerous fad and people get hurt.

Seven people were injured in the accident, about which the navy is being unsurprisingly clench-jawed. Briefly, under “normal operations” an F-35 attempting to land crashed into the deck of the Carl Vinson. The ship was unhurt but the plane wound up going overboard.

The big deal, now, is recovering the plane so that the Chinese don’t collect it. After all, this was one of those “freedom of navigation cruises” (AKA: “gunboat diplomacy”) and the whole thing took place literally in the Chinese back yard. The plane is made of secretium – pure, compressed, military secrets – and the navy is now mounting a full-press effort to get their plane back. Experts say it would have been much cheaper not to drop the plane overboard, but nobody listens to those experts as those experts are humorless Swedes. The Japanese solo-effort, in which an unfortunate pilot went to sea for a 3 hour tour and never came back, doesn’t really count because it wasn’t a takeoff/landing and no ship was involved at the time (the “board” in “overboard”). I know the term “normal operations” covers a lot, but personally I don’t think this is normal at all.

The titles are unintentionally funny: [cnn]

US Navy wants to get crashed stealth fighter back — before China can

“Yes, you bet your bippy they do” comes to mind. The headlines when the Japanese F-35 went down were similar. I don’t know if that one was recovered, or not.

The navy has developed good expertise at throwing things overboard and then retrieving them, though. [at]

That’s a “sea stallion” (“you can lead a sea stallion to water but you can’t make it drink” tm) that was recovered from 20,000 feet down. Impressive capability; the same guys who did that are now rushing toward where the F-35 was endrinked so they can grab it back.

That’s a hella cool-looking drone. It illustrates how compact a vehicle can be if it doesn’t have to support human life – it’s just impellers and cameras and batteries everywhere. I bet it costs a fuck. Because you can’t just use any cheap drone to retrieve a $100mn aircraft. It’s called CURV-21 and if you google around for it, you’ll find that it’s been used pretty widely; the navy also deployed it to find that Argentine submarine that only got the “sub” part right. I guess dropping things overboard is going to be a fad that will be with us for a long time.

Amusingly, one of the blurbs I read about CURV-21 was that it is usable at depths “up to 20,000 feet” coincidentally exactly within a few feet of that helicopter they recovered. I’m guessing the practical limitations on a ROV like that are the communications channel and battery life. I wonder if it can also cut fiberoptics.

Meanwhile, the French have announced that they are still a world power, and plan to drop something big off a ship really soon and that it’ll make a big splash.


  1. astringer says

    “limitations on a ROV like that are the communications channel and battery life”. I’d guess that the thing IS a ROV (rather than AUV), and therefore gets power and comms down a (steel, copper and optic) tether from the surface ship. They are not autonomous. I think the C even stands for Cable-controlled. Sub-sea Oil and Gas people have scores of these to survey and mend infrastructure, but likely at 1/100 the purchase price than US Navy pays…

  2. xohjoh2n says

    Given how expensive it is, and how it keeps falling off the side of carriers, and the stealth coating flakes off in a gentle breeze, why exactly would the Chinese want to go to the additional expense of attempting a recovery? (And didn’t they already nick the plans from Turkey and/or anyone else who has a copy?) Seems to speak to a certain US arrogance of “of *course* they’re desperate to get their hands on our stuff, our stuff is by definition awesome!” which might not necessarily be true.

    I guess dropping things overboard is going to be a fad that will be with us for a long time.

    The Greeks and Romans were quite into it too – we keep finding all manner of exciting stuff at the bottom of the Med.

  3. xohjoh2n says

    On the other hand I can see it might be useful to have an emergency battery pack and a “get me to the surface quick” panic mode in case of cable cut.

  4. xohjoh2n says

    I wonder if it can also cut fiberoptics.

    I imagine that even if its intentions were entirely honourable, it’s part of the job description that it might have to cut away bits of what it’s recovering while it’s down there. (Or bits of whatever what it’s recovering has gotten tangled up in.)

  5. lorn says

    Russia has clearly been diminished. Back in the day every battle group came with at least one ‘trawler’ courtesy of the USSR/ Russia. They were always very helpful in finding anything of military significance that might fall off a ship. At a seeming moments notice one or more ‘trawlers’ would rush in, clearly offended at the egregious case of littering, and position themselves directly over the lost item.

    I suggest the F-35s be outfitted with water wings. Perhaps a festive seahorse design:

  6. StevoR says

    Huh. I was expecting a quest to spy a well camouflaged avian dinosaur with that title!

    The navy has developed good expertise at throwing things overboard and then retrieving them, though.

    Notexactly the navy and not exactly thrown overboard but one that really impressed me was therecovery of Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 sunken Mercury capsule :

  7. StevoR says


    The plane is made of secretium ..

    Which, one thing we can all tell, is clearly a substance denser than water. I wonder if they could make their planes, choppers etc.. out of something that is intrinsically bouyant and will float? Might save some time.. Frozen hydrogen with a thin shell of hyper-cooling, very lightweight retaining structure perhaps?

  8. flexilis says

    As soon as I saw this in the news I thought to myself, “Marcus F-35 Ranum will be all over the story.”

    Soon the fabulous aircraft’s capabilities will be enhanced with the role of stealth submarine.

  9. xohjoh2n says


    In less than an hour, our teams identified 3 targets 13 feet underwater at the East Boat Ramp. After marking the targets in question, Doug and Jacob dove on all 3 vehicles, identifying a Kia Rio matching the description of Miss Torres’ car. The vehicle was upside down, 55′ from shore, 13′ underwater.

    What about the other 2 cars? Did they just ignore those? What happened to them? Did they have missing persons in them too?

  10. Reginald Selkirk says

    @13 No mention of the other 2 cars, nor of the 13 they found in a nearby reservoir at their previous site.

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