Debris from a US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter which went missing after the pilot ejected has now been located in the Williamsburg County region of South Carolina.
The search for the missing aircraft has drawn attention over the past days, after the US military appealed to the general public for information to assist them to find the missing jet, which is valued at $80 million.
This led several people, including South Carolina US Rep. Nancy Mace to question how exactly the US military could lose tracking of an advanced jet fighter for such an extended period of time.
In a post on Twitter/X, US Rep. Mace said: “We knew the F-35 was stealth, but this is ridiculous. How in the hell do you lose an F-35?”
Joint Base Charleston spokesman Jeremy Huggins told the Washington Post that the F-35 fighter’s transponder was not working, and that its stealth capabilities added to the challenges of tracking it.
The missing aircraft was an F-35B, a variant operated by the US Marine Corps which has short take-off (STOL) and vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capabilities.
The aircraft belonged to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 which is part of the USMC 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
Online flight tracking websites revealed that several search aircraft were yesterday focusing operations across the wooded farmland area in Williamsburg County which is approximately 120 km north of Charleston.
Debris field discovery
In a statement issued on their social media channel, Joint Base Charleston, who were participating in search efforts with the coordinating authority Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, have now provided the following update:
“Personnel from Joint Base Charleston and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, in close coordination with local authorities, have located a debris field in Williamsburg County. The debris was discovered two hours northeast of JB Charleston.”
At the time of writing, no photographs have been provided from the crash site.
Following the disappearance of the F-35, the US Marine Corps has now issued a two-day grounding, or “stand-down order”, for all aviation units both inside and outside the mainland United States.
The cause of the problem which resulted in the unnamed Marine pilot ejecting from the aircraft has not yet been disclosed, with the US Marine Corps simply characterising the event as a “mishap”.
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