On Monday, U.S. military officials ordered a two day stand-down for all F-35 jets following the mysterious disappearance of an F-35 off the coast according to ABC News.
In a statement released on Sunday, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps confirmed that the pilot of the F-35 “safely ejected from the aircraft. We are currently still gathering more information and assessing the situation. The mishap will be under investigation.”
The incident occurred during a routine training exercise, and the sudden loss of contact with the aircraft has left military officials and aviation experts baffled. The F-35, known for its advanced stealth capabilities and state-of-the-art technology, is one of the most sophisticated and expensive fighter jets in the U.S. arsenal.
Search and rescue operations were immediately launched to locate the missing aircraft and its pilot. Marine units, along with naval vessels, have been scouring the area where the jet was last known to be. As of now, the whereabouts of the aircraft and the condition of the pilot remain unknown.
The decision to halt all F-35 flight operations is a precautionary measure, ensuring that no other aircraft faces a similar fate until the cause of the disappearance is identified. The move is indicative of the seriousness of the incident. The F-35 program, costing billions of dollars, is a significant investment for the U.S. defense.
While the search for the missing jet continues, military officials are also conducting a thorough investigation into the circumstances leading up to the disappearance. All possibilities, including equipment failure, human error, or external interference, are being explored.
On Sunday, Joint Base Charleston posted on Facebook that a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is unaccounted for following the ejection of its pilot, who was safely transported to a medical center upon his landing.
“Based on the jet’s last-known position and in coordination with the FAA, we are focusing our attention north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion,” the statement read on Facebook. “The public is asked to cooperate with military and civilian authorities as the effort continues,” the base added.
US military officials are panicking after they lost an F-35.
"They don’t know where it is and are asking the public for help." pic.twitter.com/20eU7iQRvh
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) September 18, 2023
The two lakes, which cover over 150,000 acres, are surrounded by mostly unincorporated land and just hundreds of individuals while nearby communities number in the few thousands.
The F-35 Lightning II is the U.S. military’s most expensive aircraft, with the U.S. Defense Department estimating the construction and maintenance of a single jet costs $1.7 trillion over its lifetime. The military owns several thousand Lighting II jets spread across the Air Force, Navy, and Marines. Lockheed Martin, which produces the Lightning II, estimates no more than 220 can be built per year.
With advanced sensors, information fusion and network connectivity, the Lighting II redefines modern air warfare’s capabilities. Its ability to simultaneously engage ground and air targets, gather intelligence and share information with other platforms makes it an exceptionally capable fighter jet.