A United States F-35 fighter jet went missing somewhere over South Carolina after a pilot safely ejected during a mid-flight emergency, causing military authorities to appeal to public for help in finding the aircraft.
Military officials said that a Marine Corps pilot escaped the F-35B Lightning II jet over North Charleston on Sunday after a ‘mishap’ and the search for the missing aircraft is ongoing over two lakes north of the area, the Guardian reported. The pilot has been taken to a local hospital and is now in a stable condition, said Major Melanie Salinas.
“We’re working with MCAS Beaufort to locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon. The pilot ejected safely,” said Joint Base Charleston in a post on social media platform X. Authorities are focusing the search around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, it said.
The circumstances surrounding the ‘mishap’ remained unclear and Joint Base Charleston has asked the public to cooperate with military and civilian authorities in locating tge F-35 aircraft.
The incident has been received with some criticism. “How in the hell do you lose an F-35? How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?” said Congresswoman Nancy Mace on X.
According to Washington Post, the jet’s transponder which usually helps locate the aircraft, was not functioning due to unknown reasons, said Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson at Joint Base Charleston. “So that’s why we put out the public request for help,” he said.
“The aircraft is stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect,” Huggins further said.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force are also involved in the search for the Marine Corps jet. The Air Force considers any incident that “results in death, injury, illness or property damage” to be a mishap, which necessitates an investigation.
The F-35 jets are considered one of the world’s most advanced fighter aircrafts and also the most expensive ones. They have been touted as critical “next-generation” aircraft for the United States.