US military officials are reaching out to the public for assistance in locating an F-35 fighter jet that mysteriously disappeared over South Carolina following a pilot ejection due to a “mishap.”
Joint Base Charleston, in cooperation with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, is actively engaged in the search for the missing F-35B Lightning II jet, which went missing on a Sunday afternoon mission.
The pilot executed a successful ejection from the aircraft and was subsequently transported to a local medical center in stable condition, as reported in a Facebook post around 5:35 p.m. ET.
Notably, the jet was left in autopilot mode upon the pilot’s ejection, leaving the possibility that it could still be airborne, according to Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston.
Search efforts are currently concentrated north of the air base, focusing on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, guided by the jet’s last-known position and coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. Although Huggins refrained from speculating on the jet’s fate, more details are expected to emerge in due course. The FAA has yet to provide a statement regarding the incident.
The circumstances surrounding the pilot’s ejection remain unclear.
The incident has garnered criticism from various quarters, including Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., who expressed her astonishment on social media, asking, “How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” Mace questioned the absence of a tracking device and the necessity of appealing to the public for assistance.
Jeremy Huggins indicated that the jet’s transponder, typically used to locate aircraft, was not operational, though he was unable to confirm this detail as of early Monday.
Lockheed Martin, a major aerospace company, touts the F-35 series as the “most advanced fighter jet in the world” and underscores its status as the “most lethal, stealthy, and survivable aircraft.” The F-35 family comprises three single-seat variants, including the F-35A for conventional takeoff and landing, the F-35B for short takeoff and vertical landing, and the F-35C for carrier operations.