F-35 Jet Is Missing After Pilot Parachutes Free in South Carolina

14:18 18.09.2023 - The New York Times

Military and government authorities continued a sweeping search on Monday for an F-35 jet that disappeared after a U.S. Marine pilot used an emergency parachute to eject from it on Sunday afternoon in North Charleston, S.C.

The pilot, who has not been publicly identified, was in an F-35 from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. He was taken to a local medical center and his condition was stable late Sunday, Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman for Joint Base Charleston, said.

It was unclear why the pilot needed to eject. The search involved a broad range of government and military officials, including from the Marines, its Second Marine Aircraft Wing, Navy regional authorities in the Southeast, the Civil Air Patrol and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Law enforcement teams across the state were also assisting in the search.

"We appreciate the support we've received from our mission partners and every organization involved, as integrated teams are searching and preparing for the recovery of the jet," Joint Base Charleston said.

Based on the last-known position of the jet, an F-35B Lightning II, the base was focusing on an area around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration, Joint Base Charleston said late on Sunday, adding that it was seeking the public's help.

The authorities asked anyone with information about the missing jet's location to pass along tips.

The F-35B Lightning II is the variant used by the Marine Corps, a short-takeoff and vertical-landing version. Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, it completed its first combat strikes for the Marine Corps in Afghanistan in 2018.

The F-35's Joint Strike Fighter program is the Department of Defense's most expensive weapon system program, with estimates that it will cost nearly $1.7 trillion to buy, operate, and sustain the aircraft and systems over its lifetime, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released in May

The purchase cost of the Marine Corps jet has varied over the life of the program. The federal government said it was as low as $70 million in 2012, and the Project on Government Oversight said it was as high as $135 million in 2020.

John Ismay and Christine Hauser contributed reporting.

/ Monday, September 18, 2023, 2:18 PM /

themes:  Military  South Carolina

U.S. requests aid in locating missing F-35 fighter jet with ejected pilot

In a dramatic turn of events, a search is underway for a missing F-35 jet after a Marine pilot was forced to eject from it on Sunday afternoon in North Charleston, South Carolina. ..... 

The reasons behind the pilot's need to eject from the aircraft are still unknown. ..... Additionally, law enforcement teams from across the state are providing their assistance.

Joint Base Charleston expressed gratitude for the support received from various organizations involved in the search effort. The base is concentrating its search around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, based on the last-known position of the F-35B Lightning II jet. They are working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and are urging the public to provide any information that could aid in the recovery of the missing jet.

 ..... However, the F-35's Joint Strike Fighter program has not been without controversy, as it is considered the Department of Defense's most expensive weapons system program to date, with an estimated cost of nearly $1.7 trillion, including the purchase, operation, and maintenance of the aircraft and associated systems.

While the search for the missing F-35 continues, concerns have been raised regarding the stealth capabilities of the jet. The authorities have been compelled to seek assistance from the public to locate the elusive aircraft. Joint Base Charleston, in collaboration with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, issued a plea for cooperation with military and civilian authorities. They have provided a hotline number, 843-963-3600, for anyone with relevant information to contact them.

The incident has drawn criticism from Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who questioned how such a high-tech aircraft could go missing, stating in a social media post, "How in the hell do you lose an F-35?". She expressed surprise that there was no tracking device installed on the aircraft and questioned the authorities' reliance on the public to find and report its whereabouts.

According to Jeremy Huggins, the jet's transponder, which is typically used to track aircraft, was not functioning at the time of the incident. He explained that the F-35's stealth capabilities, including unique coatings and designs, make it much harder to detect compared to a standard aircraft. Lockheed Martin, the aerospace giant responsible for manufacturing the F-35 series, boasts that it is the "Most Advanced Fighter Jet in the World" and highlights its lethal, stealthy, and survivable features.

As the search for the missing F-35 continues, the focus remains on locating the jet and ensuring the safety of the pilot. The combined efforts of military, government, and law enforcement agencies, along with the assistance of the public, are crucial in resolving this extraordinary situation.

U.S. asks for help finding missing F-35 fighter jet after pilot ejects during 'mishap'

A U.S. fighter jet's stealth abilities appear to be working too well, with authorities forced to ask the public for help finding an F-35 that went missing somewhere over South Carolina when the pilot ejected due to a "mishap."

Joint Base Charleston, an air base in North Charleston, said it was working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to "locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap" on Sunday afternoon.

The pilot was able to safely eject from the aircraft, an F-35B Lightning II jet, and was taken to a local medical center in stable condition, the air base said in a Facebook post at around 5:35 p.m. ET.

The condition of the pilot was not immediately clear as of Monday morning. The circumstances surrounding the mishap also remained unclear. Joint Base Charleston and the U.S. Air Force did not immediately respond to overnight requests for comment from NBC News.

Joint Base Charleston asked the public to "cooperate with military and civilian authorities" as the effort to locate the jet continued. "If you have any information that would assist the recovery teams, please call the JB Charleston Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600."

 ..... The FAA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The incident attracted some criticism, with Rep. ..... C.) asking in a social media post : "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?" Mace wrote.

The jet's transponder, which usually helps locate the aircraft, was not working "for some reason that we haven't yet determined," Jeremy Huggins, a spokesman at Joint Base Charleston, said, according to The Washington Post.

"So that's why we put out the public request for help," Huggins said.

He added that the aircraft is "stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect."

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin describes the F-35 series on its website as the "Most Advanced Fighter Jet in the World," as well as the "most lethal, stealthy and survivable aircraft."


F-35 Fighter Jet Missing After Mishap, Pilot Ejects: Military Seeks Help

In a dramatic turn of events, a Marine Corps pilot had to safely eject from an F-35B Lightning II fighter jet during a mishap over North Charleston, South Carolina, on Sunday afternoon. Military officials launched a search operation for the missing aircraft, focusing their efforts on two lakes in the area. The pilot's name has not been released, but he was reported to be in stable condition after parachuting safely into a North Charleston neighborhood.

The Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, in collaboration with Joint Base Charleston, immediately appealed to the public for assistance in locating the F-35B Lightning II. In a tweet, Joint Base Charleston requested anyone with information about the missing aircraft to contact the Base Defense Operations Center.

As the investigation into the incident continues, Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston revealed that the search for the F-35B Lightning II was primarily focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, both located north of North Charleston. To aid in the search efforts, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the operation after the weather cleared.

The Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, based in Beaufort, was responsible for the F-35B Lightning II involved in the mishap. Fortunately, a second F-35B Lightning II returned safely to Joint Base Charleston, bringing some relief to the authorities.

With each F-35B Lightning II costing around $80 million, the urgency to locate the missing aircraft is paramount. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of these advanced fighter jets, confirmed the cost, highlighting the significant investment at stake.

The urgency and seriousness of this situation prompted a desperate plea from the military and civilian authorities for cooperation from the public. Joint Base Charleston, via Facebook, urged the public to assist in the search operation and to contact the Base Defense Operations Center with any relevant information.

While the cause of the mishap and the pilot's decision to eject remain under investigation, emergency response teams have been deployed to locate the missing F-35B Lightning II fighter jet. The situation remains fluid, with authorities actively working to unravel the circumstances surrounding the incident.

Fox News Digital reached out to Joint Base Charleston for further details, but as of now, no additional information has been made available. The search operation is ongoing, and authorities are hopeful that the missing F-35B Lightning II will be found soon.

F-35 jet reported missing by authorities after pilot ejects during Сmishap': Officials

US military officials are searching for a missing F-35 jet after a mishap caused its pilot to eject on Sunday afternoon.

Joint Base Charleston said on Facebook that the aircraft was a Lockheed Martin F-35 LightningII belonging to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

The pilot ejected safely and was transported to a local medical center.

The base is working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to help locate the missing aircraft.

Emergency response teams have been deployed to find the jet.

"Based on the jet's last-known position and in coordination with the FAA, we are focusing our attention north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion," Joint Base Charleston said in a statement on Facebook.


Anyone with information about the jet's whereabouts is urged to contact JB Charleston Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.

There is no additional information about the incident at this time.

Authorities are actively investigating the situation.

Fox News Digital reached out to Joint Base Charleston for more details, but none were available.

Debris reportedly found in South Carolina after F-35 stealth fighter jet disappeared

Authorities found a debris field Monday afternoon in the US military's search for a missing F-35 stealth jet that a pilot ejected from Sunday during a bizarre "mishap," officials said.

The debris was discovered about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston in Williamsburg County, according to a press release from the South Carolina military base.

"Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field," Joint Base Charleston said.

The joint base is transferring incident command to the United States Marine Corps as the recovery process gets started. The base could not officially confirm the debris was from the missing jet Monday night.

The $90 million jet, which maker Lockheed Martin brags as being "the most lethal, stealthy and survivable aircraft in the world" vanished after its pilot left the aircraft on autopilot before bailing in a parachute and landing in a homeowner's backyard Sunday afternoon.


Military officials even pleaded with the public for tips that might lead to the jet.

"The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process," Joint Base Charleston said Monday evening.

The missing jet led to some ridicule over the last 24 hours.

"How in the hell do you lose an F-35?" South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace tweeted.


Military searching for F-35 fighter jet after "mishap" prompts pilot to eject over North Charleston, S.C.

North Charleston, S.C. - A Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from a fighter jet after a mishap over North Charleston Sunday afternoon and the search for his missing aircraft was focused on two lakes, military officials said.

Military officials appealed in online posts Sunday for any help from the public in locating the aircraft, including oneon X, formerly known as Twitter:

We’re working with @MCASBeaufortSC to locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon. The pilot ejected safely. ..... 

- Joint Base Charleston (@TeamCharleston) September 17, 2023

The pilot ejected and parachuted safely into a North Charleston neighborhood at about 2 p.m. He was taken to a local hospital and was in stable condition, said Maj. Melanie Salinas. His name hasn't been released.

Based on the missing plane's location and trajectory, the search for the F-35 Lightning II jet was focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, said Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston. Both lakes are north of North Charleston.

A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the search for the F-35 after some bad weather cleared in the area, Stanton said.

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.

The planes and pilots were with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 based in Beaufort, not far from South Carolina's Atlantic coast.

F-35s, built by Lockheed Martin, cost around $80 million each, according to Agence France-Presse.

Questions mount after U.S. fighter jet went missing

Military investigators are facing a slew of questions about why an F-35 stealth fighter jet went missing for more than 24 hours before it crashed in rural South Carolina.

As scrutiny mounts of the sophisticated warplane, which also saw a pilot eject last year during a failed landing in Texas, investigators are expected to take months piecing together a timeline of events that began Sunday afternoon to determine why the pilot ejected and why the jet continued flying undetected for so long while locked in autopilot mode.

When Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina asked for the public's help to find the jet, the internet lit up with memes like "Dude, where's my F-35?" and expressing astonishment that an aircraft with stealth mode capabilities could, in fact, vanish so stealthily.

 ..... C., asked in a social media post. "How is there not a tracking device and we're asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?"

What do we know?

The F-35B Lightning II jet, manufactured by Lockheed Martin and operated by the Marine Corps since 2015, took off from Joint Base Charleston on Sunday afternoon. It was one of two planes involved in a routine training flight, Capt. Joe Leitner, the spokesperson for the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, told reporters, according to The Post and Courier.

Just before 2 p.m., one of the pilots ejected, parachuting into a backyard residence in Charleston, two defense officials said. The pilot, who was not identified, was taken to a hospital in stable condition.

After 5 p.m., Joint Base Charleston posted on social media that a "pilot ejected safely" following an afternoon mishap of an F-35. Officials said they were focusing on a pair of lakes north of the base.

"If you have any information on the whereabouts of the F-35, please call our Base Defense Operations Center," officials wrote.

They launched an intense hunt for the jet, but it wasn't until almost 6:30 p.m. Monday when the base announced that law enforcement had located a debris field in Williamsburg County, a rural stretch about a two-hour drive northeast of the base.

The pilot was released from the hospital earlier Monday, and no other damage or injuries were reported, defense officials said.

Why did the pilot eject?

Military officials could not immediately explain why the pilot parachuted from the plane, but experts and former F-35 pilots said such a decision would not be made lightly.

"The ejection is a last-ditch decision," said David Berke, who served as a commanding officer in the Marine Corp's first F-35 squadron in South Carolina from 2012 to 2014.

"Something has occurred catastrophically where the risk to the aircraft and the surrounding environment is so high that ejection will preserve the life of the pilot."

The F-35B is unique compared to other models, said Dan Grazier, a senior defense policy fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit federal watchdog.

"The F-35B has an autoeject function," Grazier said. "I'm curious to know if it ejected him involuntarily."

The decision to abandon the aircraft meant it would eventually crash, a costly outcome because this version of the aircraft is about $140 million, the watchdog group found in a 2020 report.

"I don't fault a pilot for bailing out of an aircraft if that's the right course of action," Grazier said, adding that the military will want to know if it was done out of mechanical or software failure, pilot error or something else.

Regardless, experts say it could have been worse.

"We are so fortunate that both the pilot was OK, and nobody on the ground was hurt," said Berke, now a chief development officer with the Echelon Front, a leadership development company. "This is a good news story in that regard."

Why did the jet lose communication?

F-35s are equipped with transponders that allow the aircraft to be tracked. But military officials initially said the transponder did not appear to be working but were unsure why.

J.J. Gertler, a senior analyst at Teal Group, a defense consulting firm, said the rocket motors in the pilot's ejection seat could have been so powerful, they "cooked the electronics, the wires, cut off power to the transponder, among other things" in the cockpit.

Berke said the transponder may not have been turned on in the first place because it was flying with a lead F-35, which would have had its transponder on. The second jet's would be off to prevent extra noise from interfering with the approach controller.

"That's just normal procedure," Berke said.

Why did the aircraft keep flying so long?

Military officials will also want to know how the jet, which had been placed on autopilot when the pilot ejected, managed to keep flying through the skies for hours instead of crashing much sooner.

Berke said if there were no engine problems to force the aircraft from the sky, it could conceivably keep coasting

"If the jet's engine is working well and it was in a stable position when the pilot ejected, it's totally plausible," he said.

What happens next?

All Marine Corps aircraft inside and outside the U.S. were grounded on Monday and Tuesday to allow units "to discuss aviation safety matters and best practices," the Pentagon said.

Grazier said the high-profile incident warrants a full investigation to determine whether it was prompted by a simple explanation or points to a more systemic problem.

He said a preliminary crash report typically takes about 90 days, but a full report could be another year.

Debris of US F-35 fighter jet found a day after pilot ejects from warplane

The United States military said it has finally found debris from a missing F-35 fighter jet a day after asking for the public's help in locating wreckage from the elusive warplane after a pilot ejected from the aircraft for unknown reasons.

The debris field from the F-35B Lightning II jet that went missing on Sunday afternoon was located on Monday in South Carolina's rural Williamsburg County, according to the Marine Corps's Joint Base Charleston.

"Personnel from Joint Base Charleston and @MCASBeaufortSC, in close coordination with local authorities, have located a debris field in Williamsburg County. The debris was discovered two hours northeast of JB Charleston," the base said on social media, while also thanking local, county and state officials for their help in the hunt for the missing stealth fighter plane.

The debris was located about two hours northeast of the Marine base and local residents were being asked to stay clear of the site.

 ..... We are transferring incident command to the USMC [US Marine Corps] this evening, as they begin the recovery process," the base said.

 ..... We are transferring incident command to the USMC this evening, as they begin the recovery process.

- Joint Base Charleston (@TeamCharleston) September 18, 2023

Authorities had been searching for the jet since the pilot, whose name has not been released, parachuted to safety into a North Charleston neighbourhood at about 2pm (18:00 GMT) on Sunday and the aircraft continued flying in what some called a "zombie state".


Military officials later appealed in online posts for any help from the public in locating the aircraft, which cost approximately $80m. The request spurred an avalanche of jokes and memes on social media from people incredulous that the US military could lose such an advanced warplane.

The US military is searching for a missing F-35B in South Carolina after the pilot ejected yesterday and the jet kept flying. If you have seen an F-35 in the woods, please contact the US Marines.

- Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) September 18, 2023

All Marine Corps aviation units were also ordered on Monday to pause operations for two days.

General Eric Smith, the acting commandant of the Marine Corps, ordered the stand-down during which commanders will reinforce safe flying policies, practices and procedures with their Marines.

The loss of the F-35 was the third event documented as a "Class-A mishap" over the past six weeks, according to a Marine Corps announcement. Such incidents involve damages that reach a cost of $2.5m or more, when a Department of Defense aircraft is destroyed, or someone dies or is permanently disabled.

No details were provided on the two previous incidents. But in August, three US Marines were killed in the crash of a V-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft during a training exercise in Australia, and a Marine Corps pilot was killed when his combat jet crashed near a San Diego base during a training flight.

Exactly what happened that caused the loss of the F-35 is under investigation. ..... 

A key advantage of the F-35, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, is its near impossibility to be tracked by radar and its advanced sensors and other equipment.

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