Posted by on September 19, 2023 11:41 am
Categories: News Washington Examiner

How the Air Force spent 25 hours hunting for missing $80 million stealth jet after in-air ‘mishap’

FILE – A United States Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II takes part in an aerial display during the Singapore Airshow 2022 at Changi Exhibition Centre in Singapore, Feb. 15, 2022. Suhaimi Abdullah/AP

How the Air Force spent 25 hours hunting for missing $80 million stealth jet after in-air ‘mishap’

Rachel Schilke September 19, 11:10 AM September 19, 11:10 AM Video Embed

The hunt for an F-35 fighter jet that went missing due to a “mishap” was finally discovered on Monday afternoon, bringing an end to the almost 25-hour search for the aircraft.

The pilot had ejected from the stealth fighter jet but the jet was unable to be located, prompting an hourslong investigation into its disappearance.


Here is what is known about the missing F-35 jet and what comes next.

What happened?

On Sunday at 5:26 p.m., Joint Base Charleston released a notice on social media that personnel from the base and the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort were responding to a “mishap” involving an F-35 jet.

The Marine Corps had confirmed to the Washington Examiner that the aircraft was an F-35B Lightning II jet and that “search-and-recovery efforts for the aircraft” were ongoing.

The pilot ejected safely and the base confirmed on Facebook the pilot was taken to a local medical center in stable condition. The plane was last located north of the air base around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion.

Almost 25 hours later, a debris field was located in South Carolina, two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston, the base announced at 6:25 p.m. No other additional details have been provided at this time.

“The mishap is currently under investigation, and we are unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process,” the joint base said in a post on Monday evening. “We would like to thank all of our mission partners, as well as local, county, and state authorities, for their dedication and support throughout the search and as we transition to the recovery phase.”

Members of the community in Williamsburg County were urged on Monday night to avoid the debris field area while recovery efforts continue.

What is a “mishap”?

The U.S. Air Force will typically use the term “mishap” to refer to several possible scenarios, such as “any unintended occurrence in the Air or Space Force that results in death, injury, illness or property damage,” according to the Air Force Safety Center website.

Have there been similar crashes before?

There have been several F-35 crashes since the jets started flying in 2012, including one caused by a software glitch in October 2022 and one caused by pilot error in January 2022.

What we know about the jet

The F-35 had been left in autopilot mode when its operator ejected from the plane, leaving open the possibility that the F-35 could have been airborne. The transponder on the plane was also not working, and it had stealth technology turned on, making it harder to track.

Lockheed Martin manufactures the jets, which are described by the company as the world’s most advanced stealth aircraft. Each F-35 jet costs roughly $80 million.

The military aircraft is known for its low observable stealth, with reduced engine signatures, edges, and an internal carriage of weapons designed to make it hard to see. It can travel more than 1,000 miles without refueling.

The jet belonged to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the training squadron confirmed.

What’s next

All Marine Corps aircraft within and outside the United States were required to be grounded following the incident, following a Monday order from acting Marines Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith.

Some aircraft abroad or with upcoming missions were able to briefly delay the order, but they will now be expected to stand down for two days, with the order ending Thursday.

The suspension is aimed at allowing units to “discuss aviation safety matters and best practices” after “three Class-A aviation mishaps over the last six weeks,” a press release from the Pentagon stated.


The “three Class-A aviation mishaps” were not named in the statement, but the order follows a crash involving an MV-22 Osprey in Australia that killed three U.S. Marines last month and another crash that killed a F/A-18 pilot.

“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 said.

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