Authorities asked the public for help in locating the fighter jet’s crash site after the pilot was pulled to safety.
The US military said it has finally found debris from a missing F-35 fighter jet, a day after it sought the public’s help in locating wreckage of the elusive fighter plane after a pilot ejected from the plane for unknown reasons.
The debris field from the F-35B Lightning II aircraft that went missing Sunday afternoon was located Monday in South Carolina’s rural Williamsburg County, according to the Marine Corps Joint Base Charleston.
“Personnel from Joint Base Charleston and @MCASBeaufortSC, working closely with local authorities, located a debris field in Williamsburg County. The debris was discovered two hours northeast of JB Charleston,” the base said on social media, while also thanking local, county and state officials for their assistance in the hunt for the missing stealth fighter plane.
The debris was located about two hours northeast of the naval base and local residents were asked to stay away from the site.
“Community members should avoid the area while the recovery team secures the debris field. We are transferring incident command to the USMC [US Marine Corps] tonight as they begin the recovery process,” the base said.
Community members should avoid the area while the recovery team secures the debris field. We are transferring command of the incident to the USMC this evening as they begin the recovery process.
— Joint Base Charleston (@TeamCharleston) September 18, 2023
Authorities had been searching for the plane since the pilot, whose name has not been released, parachuted to safety in a North Charleston neighborhood around 2 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) on Sunday and the plane continued to fly in what some called a “zombie state” . ”.
The pilot was taken to a hospital where he was in stable condition, the Marines said.
Military officials later appealed in online posts for all the public’s help in locating the plane, which cost about $80 million. The request sparked an avalanche of jokes and memes on social media from people who didn’t believe the U.S. military could lose such an advanced fighter plane.
The US military is searching for a missing F-35B in South Carolina after the pilot ejected yesterday and the plane continued to fly. If you have seen an F-35 in the woods, contact the US Marines. pic.twitter.com/rpueqxuP0J
— Vluchtradar24 (@flightradar24) September 18, 2023
All Marine Corps aviation units were also ordered to suspend operations for two days on Monday.
Gen. Eric Smith, the acting commander of the Marine Corps, ordered the withdrawal, during which commanders will strengthen policies, practices and procedures for safe flying with their Marines.
The loss of the F-35 was the third event documented as a “Class A accident” in the past six weeks, according to a Marine Corps announcement. Such incidents result in damages of up to $2.5 million or more if a Department of Defense aircraft is destroyed, or someone dies or becomes permanently disabled.
No details were provided about the two previous incidents. But in August, three U.S. Marines were killed in the crash of a V-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft during a training exercise in Australia, and a Marine Corps pilot was killed when his fighter plane crashed near a base in San Diego during a training flight .
What exactly happened to cause the loss of the F-35 is under investigation. A pilot of a second F-35 returned safely to Joint Base Charleston.
The planes and pilots were with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, based in Beaufort, near the South Carolina coast.
According to manufacturer Lockheed Martin, an important advantage of the F-35 is that it is virtually impossible to track by radar and its advanced sensors and other equipment.