Missing F-35 Fighter Jet Search Turns to Recovery

F-35 Fighter Jet
A pilot ejected from an F-35B Lightning II near Charleston, S.C., prompting a search for the advanced fighter jet. The plane is from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501; an F-35 from the squadron is seen here at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, south of Charleston.
Lance Cpl. Kyle Baskin/Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

As authorities investigate the ‘ mishap,’ the search for an F-35 fighter jet shifts to recovery.

Authorities discovered a debris field in South Carolina on Tuesday, bringing an unusual story that garnered international attention to an end and directing the hunt for a missing F-35 stealth fighter jet to a recovery mission.

The pilot ejected due to a “mishap” and put the jet on autopilot before asking for the public’s assistance in locating the aircraft the day before the discovery. Following the incident, Marine Corps planes were grounded, and officials are now looking into what actually transpired.

Residents of Williamsburg County were advised to stay away from the debris field Monday night while a recovery team tried to secure it.

About two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston in North Charleston, the debris was found. The base made international news on Sunday after it asked for “any information” on social media that would help find the aircraft, an F-35B Lightning II fighter jet with an approximate $80 million price tag.

The airbase had previously stated that it was collaborating with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort to “locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap” on Sunday afternoon.

According to a Joint Base Charleston official, the pilot was able to safely escape from the aircraft and was then transported to a hospital, where he was listed in stable condition as of Monday.

What precisely occurred in the “mishap” that caused the pilot to escape from the aircraft is still a mystery.

As the event was still being investigated, Joint Base Charleston stated in a Facebook post on Monday that it was “unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process.”

According to Joint Base Charleston spokesman Jeremy Huggins, the jet was on autopilot when the pilot ejected. The plane might have been in the air for a while, according to the authorities. However, according to two defense officials, the jet lacks the range or endurance to fly for an extended period of time without refueling.

In response to the event, Gen. Eric Smith, acting commandant of the Marines, issued an order on Monday to ground all Marine Corps aircraft domestically and abroad.

Marine aircraft that were overseas or scheduled for future operations were able to temporarily resist the order, but this week they are likely to stand down for two days, according to officials. The delay, according to the Pentagon, would give units time to “discuss aviation safety matters and best practices.”

“During the safety stand down, aviation commanders will lead discussions with their Marines focusing on the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance and flight procedures, and maintaining combat readiness,” the statement stated.

Credits: nbcnews

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