ROYAL Navy submarines and special forces are racing to recover the British fighter jet that plunged into the Mediterranean Sea before the Russians.

The £100m RAF F-35 from the UK's flagship aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth crashed during a routine operation on Wednesday morning.

APRoyal Navy submarines and special forces are racing to recover the jet '/ '

PA:Press AssociationAn RAF F-35 - one of the world's most advanced aircraft '/ '

The state-of-the-art jet, one of the world's most advanced, plunged to the bottom of the Mediterranean and was destroyed on impact.

The aircraft was located on Wednesday afternoon with the area of the sea bed said to be manned by an Anglo-US security team until the jet is fully recovered.

A Brit pilot, who has not been named, was forced to eject but was rescued on a Merlin search and rescue chopper and is safely on board the aircraft carrier.

Top Brass quickly scrambled salvage crews to recover the top-secret wreckage from an area known to be monitored by the Russians.

The operation, which was shrouded in secrecy, is believed to have involved smaller submarines and divers.

They are frantically trying to claim what they can from the debris before Vladimir Putin's subs come sniffing around.

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...Luckily the Med is not that deep,... a source said.

The plane, which can reach 1.6 times the speed of sound, is thought to have got into trouble between Cyprus and Egypt around 10am UK time.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the pilot ejected ...shortly after take-off... and confirmed he was a member of the Royal Navy.

He said: ...The F-35 ditched soon after take off. We are pleased the pilot is safe and back on board. Our operational and training flights continue....

Retired Rear Admiral Chris Parry said last night: ...Although an inquiry will establish the precise cause of the crash, it appears likely that the accident occurred because of engine malfunction.

...Despite the F-35B's good safety record, it was inevitable that some of these high-performance aircraft, which operate in the distinctly demanding maritime environment, would have been lost at some stage....

According to the RAF website, the jet's technology enables it to operate undetected in hostile airspace.

The F-35 was operated by the RAF's world-famous 617 Squadron, which was formed in 1943 for the famous Dambusters raid on German dams.

It is thought to be the first non-US loss of an F-35B - which has short take-off and vertical landing capabilities like the UK's now-retired Harrier jump jet.

Enemy action is not thought to have been at play, and an investigation is likely to focus on potential technical or human error.

No other vessels or aircraft were involved and all other operations and training will continue.

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A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: ...A British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning.

...The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time....

Top Guns on the carrier had sparred with Russian MiG and Sukhoi jets when they sailed east on the carrier strike group's maiden round the world voyage earlier in the summer.

The UK has pledged to buy 138 F-35B aircraft but only 24 have been delivered.

...No we've got 23,... a source added.

There were 18 onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, eight belonging to the UK and 10 to the US Marine Corps.

Jets from the vessel previously participated in strikes against the remnants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

But the stealth jets have come under fire after pilots faced breathing issues onboard.

A NASA study revealed experts had ...some pretty concerning findings... on the issue, which was leading to psychological episodes.

PA:Press AssociationThere were 18 jets onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth '/ '