The pilot ejected and was returned safely to the ship, and an investigation of the incident, which occurred during routine flight operations, had begun, the ministry said.
Britain operates the F-35B, a single-engine, short-take-off vertical landing variant of the US-developed stealth jet, which cost about $115 million each to build.
“The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the UK’s formidable air power to our adversaries,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement at the time.
British F-35s saw their first combat in 2019, flying strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria from a Royal Air Force base on the island of Cyprus.
Both the US and Japan have lost F-35s to accidents.
After the crash Wednesday, the manufacturer of the F-35’s ejection seat, British company Martin-Baker, touted its hardware. “We’ve saved 7,662 air crew lives from around the world to date,” the company said on its Twitter page. Martin-Baker’s ejection seats are used on a range of aircraft, not just F-35s.
When the strike group departed the UK in the spring, Britain’s Ministry of Defense described it as the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave British shores in a generation.
US and Dutch warships are part of the strike group, and 10 US Marine Corps F-35s have been operating off the Queen Elizabeth along with eight British stealth jets.
When a version of this carrier strike group sailed together during military exercises off Scotland last fall, the UK Defense Ministry said it carried “the largest concentration of fighter jets to operate at sea from a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983.”
It also said it was “the largest air group of fifth-generation fighters at sea anywhere in the world.” Fifth-generation fighters are the most advanced warplanes in the air.
There was no immediate word on whether the UK would try to recover the wreckage of the F-35 from the Mediterranean.