One of the world’s most advanced and expensive fighter jets is missing somewhere in South Carolina after a pilot was forced to eject for unknown reasons while flying his F-35 with stealth capabilities in a “zombie state.”
The incident occurred around 2 p.m. Sunday over North Charleston when two jets worth about $100 million each flew side by side.
The pilot ejected and parachuted safely into a residential area. He was taken to a local hospital where he was in stable condition, Maj. Melanie Salinas said. The pilot’s name was not released.
Based on the missing plane’s location and flight path, the search for the F-35 Lightning II jet focused on Lake Moultrie, about 50 miles from North Charleston, said Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston. The pilot activated the autopilot function before ejecting.
Officials also said they had no evidence that the plane actually crashed.
A Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from an F-35 Lightning II jet over North Carolina on Sunday, but his plane remains missing
The plane and pilot were with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 based in Beaufort, not far from South Carolina’s Atlantic coast
The man-made Lake Moultrie is 75 feet deep at its deepest point and 14 miles wide at its widest point.
An F-35 has a range of up to 1,200 miles, but it is unclear how much fuel was in the jet at the time of its disappearance.
Joint Base Charleston spokesman Jeremy Huggins said the F-35’s transponder was not working for an unknown reason. Huggins said, “That’s why we made the public request for help.”
The jets are designed to be punitive.
“The aircraft is a stealth aircraft, so it has different coatings and different designs, making it more difficult to detect than a normal aircraft,” Huggins said The Washington Post.
A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the search for the F-35 after bad weather cleared in the area, Stanton said. Military officials appealed to the public in online posts Sunday for help finding the plane.
Officials are still investigating why the pilot ejected, authorities said.
The pilot of a second F-35 returned safely to Joint Base Charleston, Salinas said.
Military officials appealed to the public in online posts Sunday for help finding the plane
Representative Nancy Mace tweeted: “How the hell do you lose an F-35?” How is it that there is no tracking device and we are asking the public to find a jet and turn it in?
Local Congresswoman, Representative Nancy Mace, tweeted: “How the hell do you lose an F-35? How can there be no tracking device and we’re asking the public to find a jet and turn it in?”
Lawmakers recently criticized the rising costs of producing F-35s.
A May 2023 report found that sustaining the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program costs a total of $1.7 trillion. Additionally, the program is $183 billion over budget. The aircraft is manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The aircraft and pilots were with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, based in Beaufort, not far from South Carolina’s Atlantic coast.
The Air Force considers accidents that “result in death, injury, illness or property damage” to be “misadventures,” the Washington Post reports.
After the first F-35 crash in 2018, this accident was designated a “Class A” accident, meaning more than $2 million in damage occurred.
Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort is located about 35 miles southwest of Charleston and is home to several units of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, including Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, which flies F-35B Lightning IIs.
South Carolina’s Lake Moultrie, where the search is focused, is about 75 feet deep at its deepest point
About 4,700 military personnel serve in the military 6,900-acre site utilizing a major air-to-air combat area off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia and an air-to-surface combat and bombing range in McIntosh County, Georgia.
It was the home of a decorated Marine Corps pilot who died last month when his fighter jet crashed near a base in San Diego during a training flight.
Major Andrew Mettler was piloting an F/A-18D Hornet when it crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar just before midnight on August 24.
That crash was the fifth Class A aviation accident – totaling more than $2 million in damages or fatalities – in the current fiscal year and the first involving a Marine Corps aircraft, it said Task & Purpose.
This incident was confirmed by the incident announced as the cornfield bomber. In 1970, a Convair F-106 Delta Dart pilot encountered problems that forced him to eject.
The reduction in the load caused by the ejection as well as the force allowed the aircraft’s nose to be lowered and a safe landing in a Montana farmer’s field with little damage. The aircraft is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.