US Military Asks Public for Help After F-35 Goes Missing in 'Mishap'

A spokesperson for the air base said the jet was left in autopilot mode and could still be airborne.
US Military Asks Public for Help After F-35 Goes Missing in 'Mishap'
An F-35 fighter jet takes off for a training mission at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, on March 15, 2017. (George Frey/Getty Images)
Jack Phillips
9/18/2023
Updated:
9/19/2023
0:00

U.S. military officials said they're searching for a missing Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter in South Carolina, and they're asking for the public's assistance.

Joint Base Charleston, an air base in North Charleston, South Carolina, wrote on social media on Sept. 17 that it was attempting to "locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap" that day. It confirmed that the pilot was able to eject safely from the plane and was taken to a local medical facility in stable condition.

The base then asked the public "to cooperate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues." The Joint Base said in another social media post that anyone who has information about the missing F-35 should call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.

A spokesperson for the base, Jeremy Huggins, told media outlets that the jet was left in autopilot mode. Officials said there's a possibility the F-35 is still airborne.

“I don’t know if the search parameters have shifted,” Mr. Huggins told 19FortyFive, a military and defense news website.

Based on the missing plane’s location and trajectory, the search for the F-35 was focused on Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, Senior Master Sgt. Heather Stanton at Joint Base Charleston told The Associated Press. 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, according to Master Sgt. Stanton. Military officials appealed in online posts on Sept. 17 for any help from the public in locating the aircraft.

Officials are still investigating why the pilot ejected, authorities said.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), whose congressional district includes Charleston and outlying areas, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “How in the [expletive] 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?”
No additional information about the incident was provided by the base.

Other Incidents

More than 1,000 F-35s, which have tremendous stealth capabilities, have been produced by Lockheed Martin over the years, costing tens of billions of dollars. The firm has described the F-35 as the “most advanced fighter jet in the world.”
According to Air and Space Forces Magazine, each F-35 unit costs about $75 million on average.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated in a 2021 report that the F-35 program was the Department of Defense’s “most expensive weapon system program” to date. The estimated cost for the program is about $1.7 trillion for the aircraft and all its systems.

"This program is weighing options to upgrade its engine and cooling system. But it hasn't taken some important steps, such as fully assessing the costs and technical risks of the different options. DOD also doesn't plan to manage the upgrades as a separate acquisition program. This would limit Congress's insight into possible future cost increases," the GAO stated in the report.

The F-35 program is about 10 years behind schedule and roughly $183 billion over the original estimates for its cost, GAO stated before it provided recommendations about how to handle costs.

In 2018, an F-35B crashed near Little Barnwell Island in Beaufort County, South Carolina; the pilot was able to eject from the aircraft. The GAO found that the cause of the crash was a manufacturing defect in the engine fuel tube.

That was the first time an F-35 crashed in nearly two decades of the program's history.

Two years later, a Marines F-35B crashed near the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, California, after it collided with a K-130 plane during an air-to-air refueling operation, according to officials at the time. The pilot of that plane also ejected safely.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X: https://twitter.com/jackphillips5
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