US fighter jet crashes during exercise in South China Sea, 7 injured

The US military said a Navy fighter jet carrying out exercises in the South China Sea crashed while trying to land on the deck of a US aircraft carrier, injuring seven sailors.

The pilot was able to eject before the plane hit the deck of the USS Carl Vinson on Monday and was safely picked up by a helicopter, said Lt. Mark Langford, spokesman for the US 7th Fleet.

Seven sailors, including the pilot, were injured and three were evacuated for medical treatment to Manila, Philippines, while four were treated on board the ship. The three men sent to Manila were reported in stable condition Tuesday morning, the Navy said.

Details of the multimillion-dollar plane crash were still being verified, Langford said.

“The status and recovery of the aircraft are currently under investigation,” he told The Associated Press.

Two U.S. carrier battle groups with more than 14,000 sailors and marines are conducting exercises in the South China Sea, which the military says should demonstrate the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s “joint force capability to provide a strong maritime force.” “.

The impact on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson was “superficial”, Langford said, and both carriers resumed routine flight operations.

As China has asserted its territorial claims in the South China Sea and increased pressure on Taiwan, the United States and its allies have stepped up exercises in the region, in what it calls freedom of movement operations. navigation in accordance with international law.

As the Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln strike groups began twin-carrier operations on Sunday, China flew 39 warplanes to Taiwan in its biggest such outing of the new year, the ministry says. of the Defense of Taiwan.

The formation of 24 Chinese J-16 and 10 J-10 fighter jets remained out of Taiwanese airspace, but the maneuver prompted Taiwan to scramble its own aircraft in response.

Chinese pilots flew to Taiwan almost daily, and it was unclear whether Sunday’s flights were a response to the US drills. The Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

Taiwan and China separated in a civil war in 1949, but China claims the island as its own territory. Beijing used diplomatic and military means to isolate and intimidate the self-governing island, but the United States continued to support Taiwan by selling it advanced weapons and fighter jets.

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