The US military is asking for the public’s assistance to find a missing F-35 stealth fighter jet that crashed in South Carolina on Sunday afternoon. The pilot of the F-35B Lightning II jet ejected safely and was taken to a local hospital in stable condition, but the aircraft’s location remains a mystery.
F-35’s stealth design makes it hard to detect and track
The F-35 is one of the most advanced and expensive fighter jets in the world, with a stealth design that makes it difficult to detect and track by radar and other sensors. The jet’s transponder, which normally helps locate the aircraft, was not working for some reason that has not been determined yet, according to a spokesman for Joint Base Charleston.
The base, which is working with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to locate the jet, said it was focusing its search on two lakes north of Charleston, based on the jet’s last known position and coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration. The base also appealed to the public for any information that would help the recovery teams find the jet, and asked them to call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.
Local congresswoman questions how an F-35 can be lost
The incident has raised some questions and criticism from local politicians and experts. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) tweeted: “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?”
The F-35 program has been plagued by cost overruns, delays, technical glitches and design flaws over the years. According to the US Defense Department’s spending watchdog, the F-35 has 883 unresolved design flaws and faces a shortage of spare parts and maintenance personnel. The Pentagon is currently reviewing the program and its future plans.
The jet and pilot were part of a training squadron based in Beaufort
The jet and pilot were part of the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501 based in Beaufort, South Carolina, which trains pilots to meet annual requirements. The squadron has 20 F-35B jets, which are capable of short takeoff and vertical landing.
The pilot of a second F-35 that was flying with the crashed jet returned safely to Joint Base Charleston. The base said it was still investigating why the pilot ejected and what caused the mishap. It also said it was concerned about any potential environmental impact or safety hazards related to the crash.