The United States military is asking the public for help finding a missing Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II stealth fighter jet that was involved in a “mishap” over South Carolina on Sunday afternoon.
Joint Base Charleston, an air base in North Charleston, announced that the F-35B was lost and that the pilot was forced to eject from the aircraft and was taken to a local medical center in stable condition. Authorities believed the jet could still be airborne as it was still in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected and searches were being conducted around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion.
The incident has been a source of criticism as many have wondered how something like this can happen. South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace asked “how in the hell do you lose an F-35?” and wanted to know why there wasn’t a tracking device or why the public was asked to search for the jet.
F-35B is part of the famous F-35 family of fighter jets and is described as the world’s most advanced fighter jet it boasts features such as being the most lethal, stealthy, and survivable aircraft. It has three single-seat variants, including the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jet, the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing variant, and the F-35C carrier.
The F-35B is not the first instance of a stealth aircraft going missing. In 2003, an F-117A Nighthawk, an earlier model of the F-35, disappeared from the radar over Iraq. However, it was eventually found after an extensive search after being damaged by an enemy surface-to-air missile.
The exact reasons that led to the mishap on Sunday in South Carolina are still unknown, though an investigation into the incident has been launched. USAF Colonel Jimmy Canlas, who is part of Joint Base Charleston, said in a statement, “We are thankful the pilot is stable and safe, and is receiving the necessary medical care. We will investigate the circumstances of the incident to understand what caused the mishap and will take the necessary corrective measures to ensure this type of incident does not occur again.”
For now, the F-35B remains missing and authorities have asked for the public’s help in locating the aircraft. However, due to its stealth capabilities, it may be difficult to find.