On Sunday afternoon, two F-35 II Lightning Jets were flying over North Charleston, SC when an unknown incident occurred, prompting one of the operators to eject from their aircraft. The pilot, who has not been identified, parachuted into a residential neighborhood. They were taken to an area hospital, where they’re reportedly in stable condition. The second pilot arrived back at Joint Base Charleston without incident.
A search for the jet was launched around Lake Moultrie, a 75-foot-deep, 14-mile-wide body of water about 50 miles from the ejection site, but officials say there’s no evidence to suggest the jet has crashed or otherwise landed yet.
Prior to landing, the pilot enabled the aircraft’s autopilot function, and the F-35’s fuel tank holds enough gas to travel 1,200 miles. It’s unclear how much fuel was left when it was abandoned, though. Complicating matters is that these particular aircraft were designed to be undetectable to opposing forces. While it’s good to know they work efficiently, the technology seems to have stymied even the U.S. military. Officials have appealed to the public for “any information that may help our recovery teams locate the F-35.”
Nancy Mace, a representative in South Carolina’s congress, took to X on Sunday evening to voice her confusion at the incident. “Now that I got that out of the way. How in the hell do you lose an F-35?” she began. “How is there not a tracking device and we’re asking the public to what, find a jet and turn it in?”
We knew the F-35 was stealth, but this is ridiculous. https://t.co/L3m01p3z6X
— Rep. Nancy Mace (@RepNancyMace) September 18, 2023
Anyone with information that might lead to the F-35’s capture is advised to call Joint Base Charleston’s Defense Operations Center at 843-963-3600.
We’re working with @MCASBeaufortSC to locate an F-35 that was involved in a mishap this afternoon. The pilot ejected safely. 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 (@TeamCharleston) September 17, 2023