$100M Stealth Fighter Debris Field Found

When we think of people asking for help locating something lost, it’s usually a wallet, maybe a beloved pet, but never a United States military jet worth millions of dollars. But that was the situation in South Carolina yesterday, where a U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II jet went missing. The jet has since been found, and after other major incidents, the Marine Corps is instituting a two-day stand down on all aviation operations. 

How Does the Military Lose a Jet?

According to social media posts across various platforms from the Joint Base Charleston air base, there was a “mishap” on the afternoon of September 17, during which the pilot safely ejected, but the jet was lost.  

According to Jeremy Huggins, a spokesperson for Joint Base Charleston, the aircraft was on autopilot when the pilot ejected, meaning that the jet may have continued traveling for some time without human control. Because there’s no way to account for the jet’s flight after the pilot ejected, it’s currently missing. 

Huggins noted that the jet “is stealth, so it has different coatings and different designs that make it more difficult than a normal aircraft to detect.” Adding a sense of irony to case of the missing jet, as one of its major high-tech selling points becomes the main hurdle to finding it. 

Military Appeals for Information

More shocking than the news that the well-funded United States military can lose a costly jet is that they are appealing to the public for help locating it. 

In the same social media posts that inform the public of the “mishap,” the Joint Base Charleston requests that citizens with any information on the plane’s whereabouts call in and report it so that the military can recover their hardware. 

It’s an almost unbelievable situation that’s left citizens and lawmakers in shock, including South Carolina Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who expressed disbelief at the military’s request that the public “find a jet and turn it in.”

But that’s exactly what they asked for. 

Fighter Found

Late on Monday afternoon, debris was found about two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston in rural Williamsburg County and identified as the remains of the missing F-35B. Despite the request for public assistance, the military located the missing jet themselves after a thorough search of the area north of Charleston. 

Recovery is now underway, and the same public that was asked to help find the jet is now being asked to avoid the area. 

Marine Corps Aviation Pause After Multiple Mishaps 

In a statement released Monday evening, the Marine Corps announced they would be instituting a two-day stand down on all aviation operations. The statement cites “three Class-A aviation mishaps over the last six weeks” as the reason for the pause on operations. “Class-A Mishaps” are classified by the Marine Corps as any involving a fatality or more than $2.5 million in property damage. 

The other two Class-A mishaps occurred last month. The first, in San Diego, left the pilot of a F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet dead. The other incident involved an MV-22B Osprey crash in Australia that left three Marines dead and several others injured

The frequency and gravity of these events motivated the stand down, which seeks, per the statement from the Marines Corps, “to ensure the service is maintaining operational standardization of combat-ready aircraft with well-prepared pilots and crews.” 

While the missing F-35B caused some laughs, given the pilot’s ability to safely eject and the military’s request for public assistance, the deaths in the other crashes are no laughing matter, and we hope that the pause on aviation operations succeeds in ensuring the safety of pilots. 

Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Screen Anarchy, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Kyle has an MA in philosophy from Boston College, is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics, and along with writing, organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.