Imagine conducting military maneuvers with aircraft worth over 100 million dollars, and when you return to the military base, you start counting, only to realize that one is missing. That’s what happened in the United States this weekend, and we’re going to tell you about it right now.
The Marine Corps lost an F-35B Lightning II combat aircraft in a training “incident” on Sunday. Military personnel are requesting assistance to locate the F-35 aircraft after the pilot ejected from the F-35 and parachuted safely to the ground around 2 p.m. near Charleston, South Carolina.
The pilot was transported to a local hospital and is in stable condition, reported Joint Base Charleston in a Facebook post, stating that the incident involved “an F-35B Lightning II jet from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.”
Joint Base Charleston is working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to locate the F-35, focusing on the northern area of the base surrounding Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, said Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston to NBC News.
“Emergency response teams are still trying to locate the F-35,” Joint Base Charleston said in the Facebook post. It also stated, “The public is asked to cooperate with military and civilian authorities as efforts continue.”
A spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston told NBC that the jet was still in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected, so there is still a possibility that it might be flying uncontrolled.
The lost aircraft has stirred anger among some politicians, including Representative Nancy Mace, who wrote on Twitter: “How the hell do you lose an F-35? How is there no tracking device, and we’re asking the public to what, find a plane and turn it in?”
Joint Base Charleston has not yet determined the cause of the incident, as stated by Huggins to The Washington Post: “That’s why we launched the public appeal for help.” He added, “The aircraft is stealthy, so it has different coatings and designs that make it harder to detect than a regular plane.”
According to a 2020 report from the Project On Government Oversight, each Marine Corps F-35B costs $135.8 million and is described as the “world’s most advanced combat aircraft” and the “most lethal, stealthy, and survivable aircraft,” as claimed by aerospace giant Lockheed Martin on its website.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office also stated in a 2023 report that the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program is the most expensive weapons system program in the Department of Defense’s arsenal, estimating that U.S. taxpayers would pay approximately $1.7 trillion to “acquire, operate, and maintain the aircraft and systems over its lifetime.”
Critics of the F-35 have characterized the program as “wasteful” and “too big to truly be invisible.” However, it appears that the stealth capabilities of the aircraft are working, at least for the time being.
If you have seen the missing aircraft, military officials would like you to report it by calling 843-963-3600. It is not expected to have crossed the state or left the country, so if you are not reading this in Europe or Mexico, don’t lose hope.