Four Senior Sailors Charged in Release of Navy Plane Crash Video

Four senior U.S. Navy officers and a junior sailor have been charged with allegedly leaking videos showing an F-35 jet crashing onto an aircraft carrier.

The pieces of footage, along with a series of photographs, showed the incident from a number of different angles.

The initial video that made its way online, taken from a low vantage point, showed the F-35 swooping toward the USS Carl Vinson before striking the bed of the aircraft carrier during an early landing. Pictures of the wrecked plane floating in the sea were also circulated on social media.

Additional video footage, which appears to have been taken from a cell phone, presented the crash in significantly more detail and showed the fighter plane actually slamming onto the bed of the Carl Vinson. The jet is then seen skidding across the aircraft carrier before falling into the ocean.

Navy officials said the F-35 pilot was injured in the accident, along with six sailors onboard the Carl Vinson.

The crash happened on January 24 during military exercises off the northwest coast of the Philippines, with the various footage making its way across social media in early February.

After the video clips were leaked, the Navy launched an investigation, with officials saying Thursday that five officers allegedly involved with the leak had been charged.

"There is an ongoing investigation into the crash. The investigation into the unauthorized release of the shipboard video footage has concluded," said Navy spokesperson Commander Zach Harrell. "One U.S. Navy O-1 [Ensign], one E-8 [Senior Chief Petty Officer], and three E-7s [Chief Petty Officer] have been charged under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

"We remain grateful to the highly trained sailors aboard Carl Vinson who immediately responded to ensure that the pilot was recovered from the water, all injured personnel were cared for, and flight deck was cleared and re-set for operations," Harrell added. "After a short pause in accordance with safety procedures, the rapid response from the crew enabled flight operations resume with minimal impact to mission requirements."

USS Carl Vinson
Four senior officers and a junior sailor have been charged after leaked footage circulated online showing a jet crash on the bed of the USS Carl Vinson in January. The footage was released in two videos and a series of photographs, and depicts the F-35 crashing into the ship before sliding into the ocean. Here, an F/A-18 fighter jet can be seen landing on the Carl Vinson in 2017. Sean Castellano/Getty

Navy officials did not reveal the names of the officers who were charged.

Rob "Butch" Bracknell, a former U.S. Marine and current military lawyer, explained the charges to USNI News.

"The sailors being charged under Article 92 are either being charged on a general orders violation theory or as a dereliction – as in they negligently failed to execute a duty not to record and leak onboard footage," Bracknell told the outlet. "There are two reasons to charge this conduct: Leaking footage of a mishap might reveal platform or performance vulnerabilities to an adversary – maybe not in this case – but they want to deter the conduct in other cases and they want to deter sailors recording onboard systems with personal cell phones and broadcasting them."

This is not the first time the Navy has found itself in the middle of a "leaked footage" debacle.

In May 2021, an unauthorized Navy video showed what appeared to be a saucer-like object appearing to fly above the water off the coast of San Diego before disappearing beneath the waves. As the footage made its way around social media, some people described it as an alien ship or UFO.

At the time, the Navy said that the video clip would be sent to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force at the Pentagon for further investigation.

Newsweek has reached out to the U.S. Navy for comment.