The United States military has made an unusual appeal to the public for assistance in locating an F-35 fighter jet, valued at approximately $80 million, which went missing following an incident over South Carolina. The incident occurred on a Sunday afternoon when the aircraft was in flight, and the pilot was forced to eject.
The pilot, whose identity remains undisclosed, executed a successful ejection and safely descended with a parachute. At present, the pilot is in stable condition and receiving medical attention at a hospital. However, the details surrounding the incident remain unclear, with officials only characterizing it as a “mishap.”
The missing aircraft, an F-35B Lightning II manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is known for its significant price tag of around $80 million each, according to reports from AFP. In light of this incident, a concentrated search effort has been launched in the vicinity of two lakes situated north of Charleston, South Carolina.
Based on the last known location of the F-35B jet, search operations are being meticulously conducted at Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion in collaboration with federal aviation regulators. The stealth capabilities of the F-35, designed for undetectable operation by enemy radar, have added urgency to the search mission.
The Joint Base Charleston initiated a public appeal for assistance on social media, emphasizing the ongoing efforts to locate the missing fighter jet. “Emergency response teams are still trying to locate the F-35,” the statement read. “The public is asked to cooperate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues.”
Members of the public possessing any information that could aid recovery teams have been urged to contact the operations center. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps informed the BBC that its knowledge of the incident remains limited, and efforts are underway to gather more information. Additionally, an investigation into the mishap is anticipated.
Notably, a second F-35 jet, which was believed to have been flying alongside the missing aircraft, managed to return safely to the Charleston base, according to military spokeswoman Maj Melanie Salinas.
This incident recalls a similar occurrence in 2018 when the US military temporarily grounded its entire F-35 fighter jet fleet following a crash in South Carolina. Such events highlight the complexities and challenges involved in operating advanced military aircraft.