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By Ryan Pickrell
A U.S. Navy fighter jet crashed Thursday while on final approach to an aircraft carrier, which was relocating to waters off Korea.
A carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson is heading north to provide “a persistent presence in the waters off the Korean peninsula,” according to Rear Admiral James Kilby. President Donald Trump previously stated that the U.S. is “sending an armada” to address the growing threats in the region.
The crash occurred as an “F/A-18E assigned to Carrier Air Wing 2 was on final approach to USS Carl Vinson,” the Seventh Fleet Public Affairs Office reported. The pilot was able to eject safely and was recovered by a helicopter.
The carrier strike group, which was deployed to East Asia in January, was transiting the Celebes Sea near the Philippines at the time of the incident. The Vinson is accompanied by the missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain and destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy.
The Vinson’s trip to waters off Korea has been a strange one.
The ship was reportedly rerouted from Singapore on April 8. A mixture of government miscommunication and media hype convinced observers that the strike group would arrive last weekend, leading to reports of a possible preemptive strike on North Korea. Pyongyang was believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear test at the time.
While most people thought the carrier was near Korea, the Vinson was actually in the South China Sea. It was recently photographed passing through the Sunda Strait in Indonesia. Thursday’s incident shows that the carrier strike group is now somewhere near the Philippines.
It is unclear if the crash will delay its northbound movements.