A US Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort F-35B Lightning II jet has experienced an unknown mid-flight emergency, forcing its pilot to eject during a routine flight on Sunday. Authorities asked the public to help locate the missing plane or its crash site.
The incident happened around 2pm somewhere north of the base, with authorities saying the pilot “ejected safely” from “an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon.”
Local media outlet WLTX claimed that the pilot put the plane on autopilot before ejecting. The search operation is focused around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, according to the Joint Base Charleston’s public affairs specialist Jeremy Huggins.
“If anyone has any information that may help locate the F-35, you are asked to call the Base Defense Operations Center,” the joint base officials wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter), adding that they are working with the Marine Corps and the Federal Aviation Administration to find the missing plane.
Last year, an F-35B crash landing at a base in Texas raised safety concerns about the aircraft, prompting the grounding of some planes for an investigation. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) also temporarily grounded its F-35s at the time.
Touted by Washington and US-based arms and aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin as one of the most advanced fighter jets ever developed, the F-35 project has been a costly one for US taxpayers, who’ve footed the bill for a long series of delays, malfunctions and cost overruns. Yet, America’s allies, including Canada, Germany and Finland, have all lined up to buy the plane.
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