The U.S. Marine Corps lost an F-35B fighter jet over the weekend. At around 2pm EST on Saturday, the Marine pilot ejected from the jet after putting it into auto-pilot. The jet’s transponder isn’t working, authorities can’t find it, and they’re asking the public for help tracking down the $100 million jet.
“If you have any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35, please call the Base Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600,” Joint Base Charleston said in a tweet about the incident. “Based on the jet’s last-known position and in coordination with the FAA, we are focusing our attention north of JB Charleston, around Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion.”
The missing jet was flying with another F-35B north of Charleston in South Carolina. Something went wrong and the pilot ejected. He landed in a North Charleston neighborhood and was rushed to the hospital and is in stable condition. The jet, however, went missing. It was on autopilot and its transponder wasn’t working.
It wasn’t working “for some reasons that we haven’t yet determined,” Jeremy Huggins, a representative for Joint Base Charleston, told The Washington Post. “So that’s why we put out the public request for help.”
One might wonder why the military can’t easily find its own extremely expensive next-generation fighter craft. The advanced nature of the aircraft might make it hard to find. F-35’s come equipped with radar reflectors that make it hard to track. “The aircraft is stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect,” Huggins said.
The F-35B could have crashed into one of the lakes that’s currently being searched. It also could be soaring through the skies even now, burning up its fuel up there alone. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. In June, a Cessna 560 continued to fly before eventually crashing after its pilot passed out at the controls. In 1970, a F-106 Delta Dart landed gently in a cornfield after its pilot ejected.
Then there’s all the F-35 related accidents. Critics have long pointed out that the 5th generation fighter program is an expensive and accident prone mess. Each jet costs between $110 and $135 million, with the total program expected to cost almost $2 trillion during its entire lifetime. More than 90 congressional districts manufacture some piece of the F-25, which has helped guarantee its continued use.
In 2021, another F-35B shot itself in the skies above Arizona. In 2022, a software glitch caused an F-35 to crash in Utah. That same year, one of the jets ate absolute shit while coming in for a landing in Fort Worth, Texas. Also in 2022, an F-35B in Japan snapped its landing gear and smashed its nose into a runway while being towed. The Navy variant of the jet made headlines the same year after leaked footage hit the internet showing one of the $100 jets crashing when it came for a landing on an aircraft carrier.
In May 2020, an F-35 landed too hard, “rolled, caught fire, and was completely destroyed,” according to the Air Force. In 2019, an F-35A in Japan crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing the pilot. That same year, an F-35 exploded after colliding with another plane and falling to the ground.
The F-35B lost near Charleston isn’t even the first F-35-related incident in South Carolina. In 2018, another F-35B crashed in Beaufort County. In 2014, an F-35 caught fire while it was in flight. This is just one of the many times that an F-35 has randomly caught fire.
Joint Base Charleston will continue to look for its wayward jet fighter. America will continue to pay billions of dollars to keep the accident-prone jets flying.