In a dramatic turn of events, the search for a missing F-35 stealth fighter jet has transitioned into a recovery mission as authorities uncovered a debris field in South Carolina. This unfolding saga has captured global attention and raised numerous questions about the incident.
The discovery of the debris field occurred just one day after a public plea for assistance in locating the aircraft was made. The pilot had been forced to eject due to a “mishap” and left the jet on autopilot. Now, authorities are launching a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident, resulting in the grounding of Marine Corps aircraft.
Residents of Williamsburg County were advised to steer clear of the area where the debris field was found, as a dedicated recovery team worked diligently to secure the site.
The debris field was located approximately two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston in North Charleston. This military base gained international notoriety on Sunday when it issued a social media request for “any information” that might aid in finding the missing F-35B Lightning II fighter jet, valued at approximately $80 million.
Joint Base Charleston had been collaborating with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in an effort to “locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap” on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, the pilot managed to eject safely and was subsequently transported to a medical center. As of Monday, the pilot remained in stable condition, according to a spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston.
The exact nature of the “mishap” that led to the pilot’s ejection remains shrouded in mystery. Joint Base Charleston, in a Facebook post on Monday, confirmed that the incident was under investigation, and they were “unable to provide additional details to preserve the integrity of the investigative process.”
It was revealed that the jet was left in autopilot mode when the pilot ejected. Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson at Joint Base Charleston, emphasized the possibility that the aircraft could have continued to fly for a period after the ejection. However, two defense officials clarified that the jet does not possess the range or capability to remain airborne for an extended duration without refueling.
In response to the incident, General Eric Smith, acting commandant of the Marines, issued an order grounding all Marine Corps aircraft, both domestically and internationally, on Monday. While Marine aircraft currently deployed abroad or scheduled for upcoming missions were temporarily exempted from the order, they are expected to stand down for two days this week. The Pentagon cited the suspension as an opportunity for units to engage in discussions regarding aviation safety and best practices.
The statement from the Pentagon read, “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 world awaits further details as the investigation into this puzzling incident unfolds.