The wreckage of a Marine Corps F-35 fighter jet missing since its pilot was jettisoned over South Carolina has been found, hours after the military asked the public for help finding the plane.
Joint Base Charleston asked the public on Monday to call the base if they had “information that could help our recovery teams locate the F-35,” which is valued at $80 million.
The pilot parachuted safely into a residential area in North Charleston around 2 p.m. Sunday.
He was taken to a local hospital where he was in stable condition, Maj. Melanie Salinas said. The pilot’s name was not released.
On Monday afternoon, the military announced that the wreckage of the plane had been found.
“Joint Base Charleston and @MCASBeaufortSC personnel, in close coordination with local authorities, have located a debris field in Williamsburg County,” the base wrote on X.
“The debris was discovered two hours northeast of JB Charleston.
“Community members should avoid the area while the recovery team secures the debris field.” “We are handing over command of operations to the USMC this evening as they begin the recovery process.”
A Marine Corps pilot safely ejected from an F-35 Lightning II jet over North Charleston on Sunday, but his plane was not located until Monday afternoon
On Monday, Marine Corps Commander Eric Smith issued a two-day pause in combat for all aviation units inside and outside the United States, which will take place sometime this week.
No units will be allowed to fly until a two-day discussion on safety measures and procedures has taken place, according to an email obtained by ABC News.
Based on the missing plane’s location and flight path, the search for the F-35 Lightning II jet focused on Lake Moultrie, about 50 miles from North Charleston, said Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston.
The pilot activated the autopilot function before ejecting.
We work with you @MCASBeaufortSC to locate an F-35 that was involved in an accident this afternoon. The pilot ejected safely. If you have information that could help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.
– Joint Base Charleston (@TeamCharleston) September 17, 2023
Many mocked the situation online, with social media users expressing disbelief that the military could not find such expensive military equipment.
X, formerly Twitter, is full of memes mocking the military and the Biden administration over the embarrassing incident.
Joint Base Charleston spokesman Jeremy Huggins said the F-35’s transponder was not working for an unknown reason.
Huggins said, “That’s why we made the public request for help.”
The nozzles are designed to be imperceptible.
“The plane is a stealth aircraft, so it has different coatings and different designs, making it more difficult to detect than a normal aircraft,” Huggins told The Washington Post.
I just arrived in Buccees and there was this random F-35 idling without a pilot. Is there a jet missing or something? What is the problem. Can I just take this? pic.twitter.com/RBqSet0vzu
— Luke Bugbee (@bugmango) September 18, 2023
A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division helicopter joined the search for the F-35 after bad weather cleared in the area, Stanton said.
Military officials appealed to the public in online posts Sunday for help finding the plane.
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 local congresswoman, Representative Nancy Mace, tweeted: “How the hell do you lose an F-35? How can there be no tracking device and we’re asking the public to find a jet and turn it in?”
Lawmakers recently criticized the rising costs of producing F-35s.
A May 2023 report found that sustaining the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program costs a total of $1.7 trillion.
Additionally, the program is $183 billion over budget.
The aircraft is manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
Military officials appealed to the public in online posts Sunday for help finding the plane
Representative Nancy Mace tweeted: “How the hell do you lose an F-35?” How is it that there is no tracking device and we are asking the public to find a jet and turn it in?
Lake Moultrie in South Carolina, where the search was focused, is about 75 feet deep at its deepest point
The aircraft and pilots were with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 based in Beaufort, not far from South Carolina’s Atlantic coast.
The Air Force considers accidents that “result in death, injury, illness or property damage” to be “misadventures,” the Washington Post reports.
After the first F-35 crash in 2018, this accident was designated a “Class A” accident, meaning more than $2 million in damage occurred.
Last October, an F-35 jet crashed at the end of a runway in Salt Lake City and exploded in flames after the pilot ejected.
After the crash, Hill Air Force Base said it was conducting the “first F-35 recovery course of its kind.”
The training covered how to safely and effectively manage various scenarios, such as: B. a collapsed nose gear, the pilot being pulled out and an aircraft being lifted.
“This training is invaluable not only to our U.S. military, but also to our partner nations that operate the F-35,” Master Sgt. Andrew Wilkow, an instructor and one of the course designers, said at the time.
“Unfortunately, mishaps occasionally occur, which is why personnel need to be properly trained in recovery procedures and how to carry out these tasks safely.”
Large plumes of smoke could be seen at the site where the F-35 crashed just outside Salt Lake City in October 2022
After the F-35 jet crashed in October 2022, flames from the crashed aircraft could be seen in Utah
Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort – from which the pilot in the most recent incident took off – is located about 35 miles southwest of Charleston and is home to several units of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, including Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, the F-35B Lightning IIs.
Approximately 4,700 military personnel serve at the 6,900-acre site, which includes a major air-to-air combat area off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia and an air-to-ground combat and bombing range in McIntosh County, Georgia.
It was the home of a decorated Marine Corps pilot who died last month when his fighter jet crashed near a base in San Diego during a training flight.
Major Andrew Mettler was piloting an F/A-18D Hornet when it crashed near Marine Corps Air Station Miramar just before midnight on August 24.
According to Task & Purpose, this crash was the fifth Class A aviation accident – meaning total damage or fatalities exceeding $2 million – in the current fiscal year and the first involving a Marine Corps aircraft.
This incident was confirmed by the incident known as the Cornfield Bomber.
In 1970, a Convair F-106 Delta Dart pilot encountered problems that forced him to eject.
The reduction in the load caused by the ejection as well as the force allowed the aircraft’s nose to descend and a safe landing in a Montana farmer’s field with little damage.
The aircraft is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.