Missing F-35 Fighter Jet: What We Know So Far
13:19 GMT 19.09.2023 (Updated: 13:45 GMT 19.09.2023)
The "mishap" which befell the US F-35 fighter jet in South Carolina raises concerns over the avionics and the hefty price tag of this 'high-tech' stealth aircraft, deemed the most expensive weapon in the US Department of Defense's inventory.
The fragments from the US F-35 fighter jet
, which had eluded recovery efforts after the pilot's emergency ejection over South Carolina, have been found. The F-35 plane and pilot belong to the US Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, stationed in Beaufort, 35 miles south-west of Charleston, where various 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing units are accommodated.
The jet was found after Joint Base Charleston issued a public appeal on X (formerly Twitter)
, urging individuals to come forward with “any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35”.
Around 14.00 EST (09.00 GMT) on Sunday, the pilot initiated an emergency ejection, making a parachute landing unscathed in a North Charleston residential area. Major Melanie Salinas reported that the pilot was admitted to a nearby hospital and is stable. However, the pilot's identity remains confidential.
In a recent directive seen by news outlets, Marine Corps Commandant Eric Smith ordered a two-day suspension of operations for aviation units, irrespective of their deployment within or outside the United States, slated to take effect later this week.
According to data from the US Government Accountability Office, the F-35 aircraft boasts the most expensive weapon system in the arsenal of the Department of Defense. Lockheed Martin produces this military plane.
Though a decade overdue and having exceeded its original budget by $183Bln, the project has encountered significant delays and cost overruns.
After the Joint Base made a plea to locals to assist in search efforts, social media went wild with memes poking fun at the military and President Biden's government over such an embarrassing incident despite the staggering cost of such a military aircraft.
Jeremy Huggins, the official spokesman representing Joint Base Charleston, conveyed that an unidentified issue has rendered the transponder of the F-35 aircraft inoperative.
“The aircraft is stealth, so it has different coatings and designs that make it more difficult to detect than a normal aircraft,” Huggins remarked.
However, local congresswoman, Nancy Mace Republican Representative of South Carolina's 1st Congressional District, was not to be mollified and said, "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?”
Media sources report that the recent misadventure of the F-35 fighter jet is the third incident registered as a “Class-A mishap” - “a mishap resulting in direct costs totaling $2Mln or more, fatality or permanent total disability, or destruction of a DoD aircraft” - according to the US Air Force Safety Center's definition. The first Class-A mishap to have been recorded was an F-35 crash in 2018, and the second was in 2022.